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Sun, Dec 19, 2004 - Page 12 News List

Asians attain the American dream in Silicon Valley


When Silicon Valley real-estate agent Steve Lim goes to see houses these days, he uses more than a calculator and tape measure to figure out the price. He also takes into account the house's feng shui because so many home buyers in the high-tech California region are of Chinese origin.

"Chinese people are a really important part of the market," he said. "Actually, so are Indians. The Vietnamese population is getting stronger. And the Koreans. Every city in the area has a Koreatown.

"Without the Asians, the housing market would be dead."

A look at Indian-born entrepreneur Anil Godwhani reinforces the point. He made his millions when his web startup was bought by Netscape in 1998. Soon afterward, he bought five neighboring houses in a swanky gated community development for his family, his brothers, his parents and aunt and uncle, transferring the close family ties from the tradition of an Indian village to the modern-day splendor of million-dollar homes -- swimming pools and home theatres included.

The dominance of Asian buyers in the housing market is all the more remarkable because, until 1956, nearly all Asian immigrants were not allowed to own land in California. And it was only 40 years ago that the new immigration laws finally allowed a large-scale influx of immigrants from Asia for the first time since thousands of Chinese and Japanese immigrants were brought in as cheap manual labor in the 19th century.

But since then, the Golden State, and especially the high-tech hub of Silicon Valley, centred around San Francisco and San Jose, has turned into a new mecca for Asians.

According to the 2000 government census, Asians constituted 25 percent of the population in the region's four largest counties. That amount was well over the less than 4 percent in the entire US population as a whole.

In the entire Silicon Valley in 2000, there were 469,000 Chinese, 321,000 Filipinos, 143,000 Indians and 146,000 Vietnamese.

Smaller communities brought the region's Asian population to more than 1.3 million.

A survey released this week by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed just how successful those newcomers have been in terms of education, prosperity, culture and social ties.

About 76 percent of them are US citizens, compared with 60 percent of Latinos living in the same area. More than 51 percent of Asians said they considered the US their homeland, compared with 40 percent who chose their country of birth. That percentage was far higher than the 33 percent of the region's Hispanics who chose the US as their real homeland.

"Now home to the biggest concentration of people of Asian descent in the continental United States, the Bay Area is a place where these new residents are achieving the American dream in record time and eclipsing more established immigrant groups," noted the San Jose Mercury News, one of the region's largest newspapers.

Among the other interesting Kaiser Foundation findings: About 40 percent of the region's high-tech workers are of Asian origin while Asian entrepreneurs are behind a disproportionate number of startups.

The Asian community is almost fanatically devoted to education. About 96 percent of respondents in the survey said it was important for their children to go to college, with more than 50 percent saying they would urge their kids to attend an elite school like Stanford or Columbia universities.

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