San Francisco is home to nearly 300,000 Asians and Pacific Islanders. Equivalent to about a third of the city’s population, they make up the second largest race group, closely following the 39% white share.
But the city’s Asian and Pacific Islander population a half century ago was vastly different — in terms of both its size and composition of ethnicities. And while Chinatown was the most prominent Asian enclave back then, new immigrants have since settled into other areas, sprouting new ethnic communities across the city.
For this story, The Chronicle examined the Asian and Pacific Islander population for each decade from 1960 to 2020. The data is sourced from the decennial census and compiled by the University of Minnesota’s Population Center. Because the census asks people about their race and ethnicity in a survey, our findings are based on residents who self-identified as a particular race or ethnicity, and not a definitive count of Asians and Pacific Islanders. Moreover, the Census Bureau’s definition of “Asian” has changed since 1960, so counts between certain decades are not perfectly comparable. Still, we think this is the best available data that captures the vast majority of Asians and Pacific Islanders each year.