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Growing Latino, Asian communities in Orange County drive political, economic changes

A couple rests on the beach late afternoon at Laguna Beach, California on June 3, 2012.
A couple rests on the beach late afternoon at Laguna Beach, California on June 3, 2012.

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Orange County has a reputation as a place of affluence and conservatism. It’s the home of Richard Nixon and the John Birch Society, and the setting for the teen drama, "The OC," in the mid 2000s, which portrayed an affluent, mostly-white cast in beach side towns.  

But the reality on the ground is much different, according to a new report from the UCLA Labor Center and the UC Irvine Community Project. It finds that Orange County is home to fast-growing Latino and Asian communities and a changing economy. 

Communities of color now make up nearly 60 percent of Orange County residents, says Saba Waheed, research director with the UCLA Labor Center. And that's coming as economic growth is shaping how and where people live.

"Orange County's economy is growing but it's growing in largely low-wage work and a lot of those jobs are getting filled by the Latino communities and to some degree also the Asian communities," said Waheed on Take Two. "When you have such high cost of living, when you have such unaffordability in housing, it just doesn't make it a sustainable place for workers to live there."

But the political landscape is also changing.

"There actually is a potential for building a new Orange County," says Waheed.

Full report: Orange County on the Cusp of Change, a joint report from the UC Irvine Community and Labor Project and the UCLA Labor Center.