Palo Alto's population spiked by almost 10 percent over the past decade, fueled in large part by a growing Asian community, new data from the U.S. Census Bureau show.
The data, which the bureau released Tuesday afternoon, indicate that Palo Alto's Asian population jumped from 10,090 in 2000 to 17,461 in 2010 -- a 73 percent increase. While Asian Americans made up 17.2 percent of the city's population 11 years ago, the proportion spiked to 27.1 percent last year, according to the census numbers.
Statewide, the Asian population went up by 31.5 percent over the past decade, census data indicate.
The new data confirm what many Palo Alto officials have publicly acknowledged in recent meetings: The city's population is growing and become more diverse. The city's listed total population grew from 58,598 in the 2000 census to 64,403 in the new one -- an increase of 9.9 percent. At the same time, the city's population of white residents dropped from 44,391 to 41,359 over the past decade -- a 6.8 percent decline.
The city's Asian community, which experienced a meteoric rise in both population and prominence over the past decade, contributed the most to the strong growth figures. Data from local schools indicate that the trend will continue in the coming decades. Currently, one of every three high-school students in Palo Alto is Asian, and Gunn High School is one of eight local schools where Asian students make up more than 40 percent of the student body.
At Hoover Elementary School, Asian students make up a whopping 78 percent of the student population.
Mayor Sid Espinosa acknowledged the growth in the Asian population in his "State of the City" speech earlier this year, when he talked about the community's "demographic shifts and changes." Espinosa called on the city to do a better job engaging its growing senior population and its Asian community in civic life.
Asian residents have already taken a more prominent role in Palo Alto's political scene over the past decade. In 2007, Yoriko Kishimoto became the first Asian mayor in the city's history. Next year, Vice Mayor Yiaway Yeh is poised to become the second. Palo Alto's five-member school board also has two Asian members -- Barbara Klausner and Dana Tom.
The surge in Asian population helped Palo Alto eclipse other major Bay Area cities that have also experienced a population growth over the past decade. San Jose's population grew by 5.7 percent since 2000, from 894,943 to 945,942, while San Francisco's grew by 3.7 percent, from 776,733 to 805,235. The two cities are now, respectively, the third and fourth most populous in the state, trailing only Los Angeles and San Diego.
Los Angeles showed a more modest 2.6 percent growth and remains, far and away, the most populous California city with 3.8 million residents. The inland cities of Irvine and Fontana in southern California showed a more dramatic population growth -- 48.4 percent and 52.1 percent, respectively.
The new census data also shows that the Asian community isn't the only one that's expanding in Palo Alto. The city's percentage of Hispanic and Latino residents grew by 46 percent over the past decade, from 2,722 to 3,974. The percentage of city residents identifying themselves as Hispanic or Latino went from 4.6 percent in the 2000 census to 6.2 percent in the current one. Statewide, the population of Hispanic and Latino residents grew by 27.8 percent over the past decade and now make up 38 percent of California.
Black residents, meanwhile, continue to comprise about 2 percent of Palo Alto's population. The number of Black/African Americans residents remained virtually unchanged over the past 10 years, increasing by a total of 13, according to the census.