Priceonomics; data via Chris Dickersin-Prokopp

A few weeks ago, we published a chart ranking the largest cities in America by the diversity of its top-line demographics. We simplified these demographics down to five major racial/ethnic groups, and the closer they were to being in a 1:1:1:1:1 ratio with each other, the more diverse the city was.

But, there was a problem with this. 

Theoretically, a city could have a “perfect” diversity score and still not look particularly diverse to a resident, if the racial/ethnic groups are sequestered in homogenous neighborhoods. The problem was that our ranking wouldn’t show indicate if a city was both statistically diverse and geographically segregated.

Other people were bothered by this simplification, too, including Chris Dickersin-Prokopp at Greater Greater Washington. He used the same equations we used to calculate the most and least diverse cities in America -- the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index -- to calculate a diversity index for each census tract in a city. He then found each city’s average census tract diversity index, and ranked the major cities in America by this number. We’ve visualized his results in the bar chart above.

Some cities stayed at about the same rank in this chart as they sat in our ranking of overall city diversity. That’s because, in these cities, diversity and integration go hand in hand. Detroit is an extremely undiverse city, and its minority populations are relatively segregated. Oakland is an extremely diverse city, and its minority populations are relatively integrated.

Priceonomics; data via American Community Survey 2013

But there are other cities where this was not the case, which traveled more between rankings. Chicago, for example, is extremely diverse, at about 30% Black, 30% White, and 30% Hispanic. But it’s neighborhood diversity index places it towards the bottom of the chart, just ahead of Louisville, Kentucky, which is almost 68% White.

To highlight these cities -- that were either more segregated or more integrated than their overall demographics would imply -- Dickersin-Prokopp plotted average neighborhood diversity index against overall city diversity index. The cities that are far above the trendline have much more homogenous neighborhoods than predicted by the overall city demographics -- and are thus more segregated. The cities far below the trendline have much more heterogeneous neighborhoods than predicted by the overall city demographics -- and are thus more integrated.

Priceonomics; data via Chris Dickersin-Prokopp

Even New York City is above the line -- the third most demographically diverse city of its size in America falls to 19th on a neighborhood level. California still dominates the bottom left chunk of this plot, with diverse and relatively integrated cities. But cities like Portland, Colorado, and Virginia Beach also stand out as not-very-diverse, but well-integrated.

This post was written by Rosie Cima; you can follow her on Twitter here. To get occasional notifications when we write blog posts, please sign up for our email list

Published Jan 21, 2015

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