Economic Progress

Diversity in the US, mapped

An Albanian holds up a U.S. flag as President George W. Bush's motorcade passes through central Tirana central Tirana June 10, 2007. Bush said on Sunday the United Nations should grant independence quickly to the breakaway Serbian province of Kosovo, and if Russia continued to block it the West would act.REUTERS/Damir Sagolj    (ALBANIA) - RTR1QNTJ

The United States is sometimes billed as a melting pot of racial and ethnic diversity. Image: REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

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Economic Progress

The United States is sometimes billed as a melting pot of racial and ethnic diversity.

Using census data and NASA satellite maps, Stepinski created a detailed map that shows racial composition levels in nearly every neighborhood in the US.

Six categories of race — non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, American Indian, Asian, Hispanic, and other — are represented by six different colors on the map (as indicated on the key).

Image: Tomasz Stepinski

If an area has a high density of a particular race and low overall diversity, it is shaded a dark tone of that color (from the left column in the key to the right). If an area has a high density of a certain race but medium overall diversity, it's shaded in a less dark color (from the right column in the key). For example, neighborhoods with a high density of white residents and low overall diversity are shaded orange. Places with a high density of Hispanic residents are dark purple. The lighter the shade, the less densely populated that group is.

Areas with high racial diversity levels overall are shaded gray.

The interactive map chronicles data from 1990 to 2010, so users can zoom in and see how areas have changed over time. Stepinski presented his work on April 27 at the annual Population Association of America conference in Chicago.

Here is the state of diversity in seven US cities as of 2010, according to Stepinski's map.

Chicago — one of America's most racially segregated cities — is highly siloed by neighborhood. There are distinct pockets of Hispanic and black residents living downtown, while first-ring suburbs have mostly white residents.

 A diversity map of Chicago in 2010.T
Image: Tomasz Stepinski

As CityLab notes, decades of racial discriminatory housing policies (some of which still persist today) contributed to segregation in Chicago. For example, following WWII, the Federal Housing Administration explicitly denied home loans for black people in Chicago and other cities across the US.

New York City's neighborhoods are also pretty segregated by race. Manhattan has a fairly high density of white residents, while the most dense populations of black, Hispanic, and Asian New Yorkers are found in upper Manhattan, the Bronx, and parts of Brooklyn and Queens. Jersey City (located west of Manhattan) does not appear to be as segregated.

 A diversity map of Jersey City (left) and New York City (right) in 2010.
Image: Tomasz Stepinski

Gaithersburg, Maryland and other areas north of Washington, DC are fairly racially diverse, as indicated by the dark grey shading.

 A diversity map of southern Maryland in 2010
Image: Tomasz Stepinski

Oakland, California also displays a lot of gray splotches, signifying higher levels of racial diversity than San Francisco.

 A diversity map of San Francisco in 2010.
Image: Tomasz Stepinski

Stepinski's map also allows users to see changes in a city's diversity over time. In 1990, many neighborhoods in Seattle were divided by race.

 A diversity map of Seattle in 1990.
Image: Tomasz Stepinski

But by 2010, parts south of downtown Seattle had become much more diverse.

 A diversity map of Seattle in 2010.
Image: Tomasz Stepinski

"People don’t realize that the United States is a diverse country but at the same time is still very segregated," Stepinski told Quartz.

 A diversity map of Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas in 2010.
Image: Tomasz Stepinski

Stepinski said he plans to update the map with new census data in 2020.

Stepinski also said the map could help social scientists, city officials, and urban planners better understand the racial make-up of America's neighborhoods in order to help make them less segregated.

Image: Tomasz Stepinski

General disclaimer:

The designations employed and the presentation of material on this map do not imply the expression of any opinion on the part of the World Economic Forum concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

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