Within the last decade, we have seen an increasing number of Asian Pacific Islanders move to the Eastside of Seattle, specifically the “eastside” of Lake Washington. According to the City of Bellevue, in 2000, the percentage of APIs living in Bellevue was at 17.4 percent. In 2006 – 2008, however, the percentage increased to 23.2 percent. In comparison, APIs in the US make up approximately 5 percent of the population, while Washington state has approximately 6.75 percent. Based on these statistics, we can see that APIs have been moving to the Eastside in significantly massive numbers. This movement is representative of a few key factors, says Conrad Lee, deputy mayor of Bellevue, including better education, quality of living, and business opportunities.
According to Lee, schools are a primary reason. Anne Oxrieder, Director of Communications and Community Engagement of Bellevue School District, says that Bellevue schools are among the finest in the country. “All our high schools were named in Newsweek’s best high schools list last year and some of our high schools have been appearing in Newsweek’s top list for many years. Three of our high schools were in the December US News and World Report as top high schools in the country.”
As one of the cornerstones of Confucianism, a way of living that permeates contemporary API culture to this day, education is one of the best ways to advance the next generation in terms of language, culture, and capital. APIs understand this connection between education and capital, which culminates in a desire to see their children better off than the previous generation.
Lee also states that people come to Bellevue because it is a safe place to live. In 2006, Bellevue was rated one of the twenty-five safest places to live in America, according to CNN Money. The personal crime risk statistic for Bellevue is 35 compared to 100 which is the national average. Bellevue also has fewer problems with gangs than other districts.
The Eastside is also deemed cleaner, with facilities like parks and gyms for people to enjoy. Because the Eastside is away from highways, people can expect to live in an environment free from noise pollution.
“Most APIs are trying to get away from their home country. The Eastside looks like a good place to live,” says Andy Yip, interim executive advisor of the International Community Health Services (ICHS) Foundation. “There is a high standard of living.” Yip says APIs experience and fulfill the ‘American Dream’ on the Eastside. “They come with a vision and realize them on the Eastside.” Though this drive to achieve a higher standard of living may at first seem materialistic, it is only natural for families who had lived in poverty in their mother nations to seek a better way of life in the U.S. The desire to obtain higher social standing is intimately tied to the societal expectations held by the nations from which first generation APIs came from. To them, living better than they had in their mother nations is of paramount importance, having escaped poverty and less developed living conditions.
There are numerous job opportunities for APIs living in the Eastside. Robert Derrick, of the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, says that the available jobs on the Eastside are diverse, ranging from “Interactive media, video games, Microsoft , and tech firms,” to “startups, Asian businesses, and markets.” Derrick predicts, “As the economy picks up there will be more Asian businesses.” Currently, thirteen percent of small businesses are API-owned.
May Wan, of the Greater Seattle Chinese Chamber of Commerce, is optimistic about job opportunities on the Eastside. “The job opportunities are abundant. Microsoft, Biotech corridor, Nintendo, hospitals, these are all job opportunities for APIs. The current residents are highly educated, with professional degrees.”
There are, however, several disadvantages of living on the Eastside. Since the Eastside is conducive to family living, it is difficult to find night spots for entertainment. Derrick also states that it might be difficult to sustain ethnic ties with their former minority enclaves.
“If you came from a strong ethnic community in Seattle, then it might be hard to maintain ties with that community,” says Derrick. Another disadvantage is that no Chinese Benevolent Association exists on the Eastside. Lee says, “These are tongs or family associations. In addition, we don’t have news media based in Bellevue.”
So what does this tell us about our community evolution? More and more APIs can afford to live on the Eastside. Yip says, “This tells us that more APIs are realizing their dreams. We have higher living standards. That speaks to the wealth that is moving up.”
Securing a strong future for families is also an important indication of the increasing presence of APIs in the Eastside. Lee says, “APIs are Interested in their kids. Families are important. They value education. It is more expensive to live on Eastside, so they have to pay more to live here. Most people who live in Bellevue are professional or managerial positions. They are better educated and make more money, and they have better jobs.”
In all, the increasing number of APIs moving to the Eastside reflects a growing trend among APIs to search for a higher standard of living. Now that APIs are more educated and better paid, we can expect a shift from APIs living in traditional minority enclaves such as Beacon Hill and the International District to Eastside suburbs like Bellevue and Redmond. Of course, as indicated earlier, there are a number of disadvantages living on the Eastside, most notably, a lack of connection between APIs and the ethnic communities that they were raised in. But it seems that APIS are willing to sacrifice this connection in search of safety, better education, and a higher standard of living.