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Vol. 10 No. i (2022): Spring 2022

Making "Little Saigon": A Geographic History, 1970-2020

November 21, 2023


After the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, United States immigration policy enabled thousands of Vietnamese refugees to seek asylum, resulting in a growth of Vietnamese populations in the United States, particularly in California. When these refugees immigrated to America, they created closely knit communities known as ethnic enclaves. The creation of these places, along with the subsequent movement and transformation of the population itself, demonstrates a unique instance of the intersections of ethnicity, migration, culture, and community. In studying the distinct geographic history of this group, we gain a larger understanding of the development of ethnic places and their function for ethnic populations. Employing a mixed method approach, using both US. Census data and historical primary sources, this work tracks the movement of Vietnamese Americans and their communities in California from 1970 to 2020, allowing for a more thorough examination and explanation of “Little Saigons” in the state. Furthermore, I predict that improvements in transportation and communication systems at the turn of the century would enable Vietnamese populations to expand beyond urbanization. Through this research, I discovered that after the Vietnam war, Vietnamese people in California mainly resided in highly urban counties such as San Francisco County and Orange County. However, after 2010, and even more so in 2019, we see that suburban and rural counties surrounding these previous Vietnamese hubs experienced a rise in Vietnamese populations, suggesting suburbanization of these groups and their community.