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Top 10 most (and least) diverse U.S. cities

Top 10 most (and least) diverse U.S. cities

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Since 1980, 90 percent of all cities, suburbs, and small towns have become more diverse.

The United States is undergoing a steady demographic transformation. The census estimates that by 2042 non-Hispanic whites will be outnumbered in the U.S.

And nowhere is that diversity playing out more than in the country's largest metropolitan areas, according to a new report from the US2010 Project at Brown University.

But it's not just a big city phenomenon. Since 1980, the report says, 90 percent of all cities, suburbs, and small towns have become more diverse. And while majority white communities are still common, places where whites are an overwhelming majority (90 percent or more) have decreased from two-thirds to one-third. Interestingly, the least racially diverse metro in the U.S. is 96 percent Hispanic.

The researchers determined that the most racially diverse places have populations with a 20 percent distribution of the five racial groups: white, black, Hispanic, Asian, and "other."

Based on that definition, here are the most diverse U.S. metros:

  1. Vallejo, Calif.
  2. San Francisco
  3. Stockton, Calif.
  4. Washington, D.C.
  5. New York City
  6. San Jose
  7. Las Vegas
  8. Houston
  9. Los Angeles
  10. Honolulu

And the least diverse metros:

  1. Laredo, Texas
  2. Parkersburg, W.Va.
  3. Altoona, Pa.
  4. Kingsport, Tenn.
  5. Bangor, Maine
  6. Wheeling, W.Va.
  7. Glens Falls, N.Y.
  8. Huntington, W.Va.
  9. Johnstown, Pa.
  10. Weirton, W.Va.

How will the increased diversity impact the U.S. in the coming years? The researchers put it like this:

Nationally, diversity is reshaping the contours of culture: our music, our theater, our arts, our cuisine. Locally, it is affecting economies, school systems, and political structures. Younger people who have grown up in diverse communities take this demographic profile as a given. But older whites who have watched the thirty-year increase find themselves having to adjust their notion of ‘America,’ sometimes reluctantly.

The report, "Racial and Ethnic Diversity Goes Local: Charting Change in American Communities Over Three Decades" comes from Barrett A. Lee, John Iceland, and Gregory Sharp at Penn State University.

Photo: Flickr/Louis Abate

(h/t Wall Street Journal)

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Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure