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San Francisco

The San Francisco metropolitan area houses 76,586 Koreans. Among them, 26% reside in Alameda County, 14% in Contra Costa County, 16% in San Francisco County, and the largest portion, 44%, in Santa Clara County. Neighborhoods such as Sunset District, Richmond, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara feature notably dense Korean communities.

Demographic Data

The overall Korean senior population increased by nearly 30% from 2016 to 2021 in San Francisco.

  • In San Francisco, Korean seniors aged 65 and over face have consistently lower median household incomes and higher poverty rates than the general senior and Asian senior populations.
  • The median household income for Korean seniors aged 65 and older is consistently lower than that of Koreans aged 50 to 64.
  • Korean senior households in San Francisco rely less on retirement funds for their household income compared to the general senior population in the area.
  • In San Francisco, fewer Korean senior households (11.3%) receive retirement income compared to general senior households (21.1%) and Asian senior households (14.4%).
  • Korean seniors have consistently had a higher rate of limited English proficiency compared to both the general senior population and Asian seniors.
  • Korean senior households are more likely to be renters when compared to both general senior and Asian senior households. Among these renters, nearly 2 out of 5 (39.5%) Korean seniors aged 65 and over spend are severely rent burdened, spending more than half their income on rent.
  • San Francisco’s Korean senior households have a higher severely overcrowding rate compared to households led by seniors in general.
  • While Korean seniors in San Francisco generally have better access to smartphones than both the general senior population and Asian seniors, those aged 65 and above use smartphones less frequently compared to their peers in both the Asian and overall populations.

Survey Findings

Out of 100 participants from San Francisco, 46% were aged 50-64, 28% were 65-74, 21% were 75-84, and 5% were 85 or older. The gender distribution was nearly even with 51% women and 49% men. 58% of participants relied on Medicare or Medicaid for healthcare coverage, 35% had private insurance, 2% were uninsured, and 2% had both public and private insurance. Among those 65 and older, a third (33%) were still employed, with 20% working part-time and 13% full-time. Additionally, 40% of the participants did not have a college education.

  • Nearly half of the participants (43%) were renters. Among the renters, almost half (49%) were rent burdened, spending over 30% of their monthly income on rent.
  • 62% of participants had considered living in assisted living facilities, and only 29% said they had not considered it. 
  • 45% of participants would prefer staying in their homes when long-term care was needed. However, one in five participants expressed a preference for relocating to Korea instead.
  • The majority of participants (87%) drove as their primary mode of transportation. 24% anticipated driving until their 70s, 46% expected to continue driving into their 80s, and 18% believed they would still be driving in their 90s.
  • The main reason 43% of participants didn’t use or were unhappy with public transportation was because of the distance to bus or train stations. The second biggest concern, expressed by 25% of participants, was safety.
  • 24% of participants said it was at least sometimes physically demanding to get to places outside of their homes.
  • When participants needed help, 80% of them turned to family members first. Friends were the second most common source of support, chosen by 15% of participants.
  • 46% of participants struggled with language barriers when trying to access professional caregiving. Close behind, 44% of participants also mentioned a lack of information as the second most significant difficulty.
  • 24% of participants rated their health as 5 or lower on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the worst possible health. The most frequent chronic conditions reported were cholesterol issues (48%), hypertension (38%), diabetes (23%), and eye conditions or diseases (20%).
  • 90% of participants did have a primary care physician.
  • The most common barrier to accessing healthcare was language (46% of participants), followed by a lack of information (38%) and technology (19%).
  • 69% of participants felt that their income was either just barely or not enough to cover basic needs. Among those who felt their income was insufficient, 42% said they couldn’t afford rent, 36% couldn’t afford food, and 25% couldn’t afford healthcare.
  • 25% of participants experienced feelings of isolation or anxiety at least occasionally. Furthermore, 36% of participants noted these feelings worsened with the pandemic’s start. Key reasons include: 25% missed visiting family or friends, 25% were affected by lockdowns, 24% faced physical health challenges, and 16% experienced anti-Asian hate crimes.
  • A quarter of participants did not feel they had access to professional mental health services that address their needs.
  • Friends or relatives were the top source of information about services and programs, cited by 57% of participants. Newspapers came next, with 40% of participants using them, followed by community magazines or flyers (37%), and then social media (27%). For those 65 years and older, community magazines or flyers were a more popular source of information than newspapers.
  • Participants were most interested in more hobby clubs (29%), followed by legal help (26%) and mental health support (23%).

Technical Notes

This analysis utilizes data from the 2016 and 2021 American Community Survey 5-year Public Use Microdata Samples, focusing on the “alone” Census category for the Korean population. This means that the term “Korean alone” refers to individuals who identified exclusively as Korean without reporting affiliation with any other ethnic category. Respondents who identified as Korean in addition to another racial group (for instance, Korean and Black) are not included in the “Korean alone” count. In any analysis leveraging Census Bureau data, the “alone” figure should be regarded as the minimum size of the population under consideration.


This report was co-authored by Linying He, Associate Director of Research, and Research Associates, Dena Li and Yuncheng Wang. Special thanks to Meera Venugopal, Director of Communications, Jenny Shin, Senior Communications Coordinator, and Annie Yang, Social Media Coordinator, for their design and editorial input. Illustrations were designed by Michelle Kwon, freelance illustrator and animator. Rushil Shakya, freelance web consultant, contributed to web development.

AAF is grateful the following member organizations for their contributions to this report: Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York (KCS – New York, NY), Asian Women’s Christian Association (AWCA – New Jersey), Korean Resource Center (KRC – Los Angeles, CA), Korean Community Service Center of Greater Washington (KCSC – Washington, D.C.), HANA Center (Chicago, IL), Woori Juntos (Houston, TX), and Korean American Community Services (San Francisco).

This report was made possible by the generous support of the Korean American Community Foundation, Korean American Community Foundation of San Francisco, Judith Ehm Foundation and Southpole Foundation