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10 Most Diverse Cities In The US

8-Minute Read
Published on September 30, 2020

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America was once known as a “melting pot” for its racial and ethnic diversity. The idea was that people immigrated here from all over the globe and melded to the American culture, becoming as much a part of it as it became a part of them.

While that’s a great sentiment, we must admit our country has had issues with racial justice since its founding. Our immigration policy has also shifted significantly since the days of Ellis Island. Many of our country’s most diverse cities are also its most segregated.

With racial tensions in the U.S. at a high, it’s important for us to focus on what we can do to right the past. By acknowledging where we are, along with where we’ve been, we can set a goal for where we want to be.

What follows is a list of the most diverse cities by statistics. These statistics don’t tell the whole story, though.

Let’s break down the trends, then go into detail what this means for each city.

Diversity Trends In America

Diversity is on the rise in America. The U.S. Census Bureau has reported the change. In 1980, over 27% of neighborhoods in America were over 95% white. Fast-forward to 2017 and that first percentage was under 5%.

The Census Bureau also reports that the two fastest-growing segments of the U.S. population are Asian and mixed-race people. In large cities, which typically have younger populations, this growth is even more apparent.

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10 Most Diverse Cities In The U.S.

These 10 most diverse cities in America come from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey (ACS). Each of these large cities has over 300,000 people within its city limits.

1. Stockton, California

  • Total Population: 312,682

  • Population breakdown:
    • American Indian or Alaska Native: 0.6%
    • Asian: 22.8%
    • Black: 10.1%
    • Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: 0.8%
    • White: 44.7%
    • Hispanic or Latinx (of any race): 43.5%
    • Two or more races: 12.6%

The most diverse city on our list is Stockton, California. Since 2010, Stockton has seen an over 7% population increase. Unfortunately, the city declared bankruptcy in 2012. The early 2010s were not kind to Stockton. It has been on many negative national ranking lists, including those for worst crime, most obese and most illiterate cities.

But that was several years ago, and a lot has changed. This city has introduced numerous programs to reduce gun violence, prioritize suffering neighborhoods and help its students go to college.

It’s a city on the rise, and its diversity is one of its leading strengths. Stockton has shown its heart and resilience and is changing the story for the good.

2. Oakland, California

  • Total Population: 433,044

  • Population breakdown:
    • American Indian or Alaska Native: 1.3%
    • Asian: 14.3%
    • Black: 24.9%
    • Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: 0.4%
    • White: 34.5%
    • Hispanic or Latinx (of any race): 26.8%
    • Two or more races: 6.3%

Oakland has regularly ranked as one of the most diverse large cities in the U.S. for some time now. But the makeup of the city has drastically changed.

For instance, Oakland’s Black population fell between 2000 – 2010. This occurred in coordination with rising rent prices and the growth of the nearby wealthy – and mostly white – Silicon Valley area.

Many people have left the city and others have become homeless. The rising homelessness, along with nationwide unrest around systemic racism, has caused wealthy tech companies to start to acknowledge their roles in their community.

Whether their recent rhetoric will translate to action remains to be seen. If these companies turn it around for their community by training and hiring local, diverse talent, Oakland will be stronger for it.

3. Sacramento, California

  • Total Population: 513,620

  • Population breakdown:
    • American Indian or Alaska Native: 0.9%
    • Asian: 18.4%
    • Black: 11.7%
    • Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: 1.9%
    • White: 44.2%
    • Hispanic or Latinx (of any race): 30.9%
    • Two or more races: 8.2%

Along with being one of the most diverse cities, Sacramento is also one of the least segregated big cities in America. Compared to other large cities in California, Sacramento has a lower cost of living and a relatively low unemployment rate.

California State University, Sacramento is one of the most diverse universities in the country. Sacramento County also has less income inequality than the national average.

And unlike some of California’s other big cities, many people are moving to Sacramento. The city saw the largest population bump from 2018 – 2019 of any of the state’s big cities. Compare that to the Los Angeles area, which lost around 73,000 people in 2018.

4. New York, New York

  • Total Population: 8,336,817

  • Population breakdown:
    • American Indian or Alaska Native: 0.4%
    • Asian: 14.4%
    • Black: 10.1%
    • Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: <0.1%
    • White: 42.4%
    • Hispanic or Latinx (of any race): 29.1%
    • Two or more races: 3.8%

With a population so large you could fit every other city on this list (beside Los Angeles) in it, New York is incredibly diverse. As America’s largest city, as well as one of its oldest, New York is a magnet of prosperity for people around the world.

At its heart, NYC is a city of immigrants. Many ethnicities call the city home, carving out enclaves and making their impression on the city. No matter who you are or where you come from, NYC can be your home.

Unfortunately, this city of immigrants is also known as the city known for aggressive policing of non-white people. New York City has one of the widest income gaps in the country, as well as some of its most segregated schools.

Yet, every day new people from all over arrive in New York City in pursuit of a dream. Whether or not the city will keep them is undecided.

5. Long Beach, California

  • Total Population: 462,645

  • Population breakdown:
    • American Indian or Alaska Native: 1.0%
    • Asian: 12.0%
    • Black: 11.3%
    • Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: 0.6%
    • White: 52.3%
    • Hispanic or Latinx (of any race): 44.8%
    • Two or more races: 4.8%

Long Beach, located in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, comes in at number 5 on our list. The city is known for its waterfront attractions and large annual Lesbian and Gay Pride Festival.

The city’s two higher education institutions – California State University, Long Beach and Long Beach City College – are incredibly diverse. They also have above average graduation rates along with high post-graduation salary rates.

If you want to live in a diverse city near the California shore, Long Beach is a great option.

6. San Jose, California

  • Total Population: 1,021,786

  • Population breakdown:
    • American Indian or Alaska Native: 0.5%
    • Asian: 37.7%
    • Black: 3.0%
    • Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: 0.4%
    • White: 42.5%
    • Hispanic or Latinx (of any race): 30.6%
    • Two or more races: 5.1%

Beautiful San Jose is the center of the bustling Silicon Valley. What’s true for Oakland is especially true for San Jose – high cost of living, high homelessness, high income inequality and limited job opportunities for people of color. The city’s largest, most successful employers hire mostly white people.

That being said, the city has a plan to end homelessness by 2025 by addressing its root causes, expanding programs and creating healthy neighborhoods. San Jose’s largest college – San Jose State University – has a diverse student body and strong business program.

Work is being done to give more people opportunity in San Jose. If Silicon Valley leaders make good on their promises to employ a more diverse workforce, San Jose could become a place of diverse prosperity.

7. Houston, Texas

  • Total Population: 2,316,797

  • Population breakdown:
    • American Indian or Alaska Native: 0.4%
    • Asian: 6.5%
    • Black: 23.1%
    • Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: <0.1%
    • White: 54.5%
    • Hispanic or Latinx (of any race): 45.8%
    • Two or more races: 2.3%

At number 7, Houston is first city not on the east or west coast to be mentioned in this list. Non-Hispanic whites make up only 36.3% of the population, making Houston one of the largest majority-minority cities.

Along with its racial and ethnic diversity, Houston is also home to one of the largest LGBT and pride parades in the U.S. The city is almost home to huge international community, with 21.4% of its metropolitan residents having been born outside the U.S.

Income inequality is on the rise in the city, with upper-income neighborhoods being homogenous. While the state of Texas is one of the best for income equality, the gap is growing in Houston. Three times as many Black residents live below the poverty line as whites, according to a recent Rice University study.

While the city is diverse, it faces many of the problems of its peers. It most actively addresses issues of institutional racism to build an equitable city for everyone.

8. Los Angeles, California

  • Total Population: 3,979,537

  • Population breakdown:
    • American Indian or Alaska Native: 0.8%
    • Asian: 11.7%
    • Black: 8.7%
    • Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: 0.1%
    • White: 52.1%
    • Hispanic or Latinx (of any race): 48.2%
    • Two or more races: 4.0%

The City of Angels is the second-largest city in the U.S. with the culture and strength that comes with a diverse population. Nearly half of its population is Hispanic or Latinx. It is often listed as the Creative Capital of the World, given all the jobs in creative industries of entertainment and culture.

Unfortunately, the city has a reputation for crime and police brutality. This year, crime rates have dropped due to social isolation in COVID-19, yet the police have had many controversies, resulting in the mayor cutting LAPD funding by $150 million, with the funds being diverted to community initiatives.

LA faces the entrenched problems of most large American cities, but it continuously shows the strength of its diversity. If its local government and the entertainment industry want to keep the city healthy, they will invest more in its diverse population.

9. Fresno, California

  • Total Population: 531,581

  • Population breakdown:
    • American Indian or Alaska Native: 1.0%
    • Asian: 13.8%
    • Black: 7.1%
    • Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: 0.1%
    • White: 60.4%
    • Hispanic or Latinx (of any race): 49.9%
    • Two or more races: 4.4%

Fresno is the 7th and final Californian city on this list. Part of the San Joaquin Valley in central California, Fresno’s home to one of the largest Hmong populations in the country. There are 1.2 times more white Hispanic/Latinx residents than any other ethnicity.

While the area is diverse, many of its residents are barely scraping by, with 28.4% of its residents earning at or below the poverty rate. So, while Fresno has a much lower cost of living than other California cities, it has more poverty, spread disproportionately among black and brown people.

10. Chicago, Illinois 

  • Total population: 2,693,959

  • Population breakdown:
    • American Indian or Alaska Native: 0.4%
    • Asian: 7.0%
    • Black: 29.0%
    • Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: 0.1%
    • White: 50.8%
    • Hispanic or Latinx (of any race): 28.8%
    • Two or more races: 3.2%

Chicago, the largest city in the Midwest, has a storied history with race and diversity. It’s consistently been ranked the most the segregated city in the country. It also has a reputation for crime and police corruption.

Yet Chicago is a city of great pride for many. Chicagoans champion their city and wear their pride like a badge. While the income gap is especially wide for people of color, the heart of Chicago’s population is its diversity.

Dozens of organizations, governments and companies are investing in the city’s residents to try to make a difference. It’s a big challenge, but the people of Chicago want it, and there’s one thing the Windy City isn’t short on: tenacity.

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The Bottom Line

While the stats show that these U.S. cities are diverse, that doesn’t mean they’re equitable. Many of our country’s greatest challenges affect non-white people more than white people, whether it be pollution, income inequality or COVID-19.

Many cities are making efforts to change, to truly invest in all their residents, not just some. These programs range from job training, to ending homelessness, to addressing the wounds of racism. With protests and the rising awareness of systemic racism, companies, organizations and local governments are pledging money and muscle to make a difference.

Diversity is consistently listed as a major motivator for young people moving to cities. The truth is that the future is diverse. Many population scientists believe that the U.S. will be less than 50% white by 2050. Cities looking to draw in young talent will need to acknowledge and address systemic racism to secure their future as great cities.

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