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The Least Diverse States in America

Tossing Out the Tossed Salad


With a biracial president in the White House, as well as gender and ethnic diversity on the Supreme Court, it’s clear that diversity and multiculturalism are important values for Americans.

But regionalism and states’ rights are also fundamental values of the U.S., and for good reason: States can be as different from each other as the U.S. is as a whole from other countries. Those differences apply to the demographics of the local population as well. Previously, MainStreet looked at the most diverse states in the U.S. Now, we use the same methodology to look at the least diverse.

To compare the diversity of all states in the union and Washington, D.C., we looked at the least recent figures from the American Community Survey (2009) and compared three-year averages for each state’s white population (based on the size of the nonwhite population), foreign-born population (to get the population from other countries regardless of race) and mixed-race population (based on people who claimed two or more races).

The combination of all three rankings determined a state’s position on this list. We count down from 10 to one, so read to the end to find the least diverse state in the U.S.

Photo Credit: OregonDOT

10th Least Diverse: Ohio


Rank, highest nonwhite population: 32nd

Rank, highest foreign-born population: 39th

Rank, highest mixed-race population: 36th

Rounding out the list of least diverse states is Ohio, with rankings in the lower third of each metric. Despite having been occupied by Native Americans, fur traders and even the French before becoming part of the nascent U.S. in 1783, Ohio is now one of the whitest of our 50 states.

Photo Credit: kla4067

9th Least Diverse: South Dakota


Rank, highest nonwhite population: 37th

Rank, highest foreign-born population: 48th

Rank, highest mixed-race population: 23rd

This landlocked territory is one of the least populous in the U.S. and least accessible. While the state does maintain a Native American population of 8.5%, its greatest claim to national fame is its Mt. Rushmore, a national treasure featuring four Caucasian men carved into the side of a mountain.

Photo Credit: Pink Sherbert Photography

8th Least Diverse: Wisconsin


Rank, highest nonwhite population: 39th

Rank, highest foreign-born population: 34th

Rank, highest mixed-race population: 45th

Staying in the North, Wisconsin comes in at number eight for its lack of ethnic diversity. Its Green Bay Packers won the 2011 Super Bowl, thanks to the efforts of a diverse starting lineup led by (Caucasian) quarterback Aaron Rodgers and (African-American) cornerback Charles Woodson on defense, but diversity on the field is not equivalent to diversity off it in Wisconsin. The state’s best chance at getting off the list of least diverse states in the U.S. may be if the Census Bureau were to start counting “cheese heads” as an ethnicity.

Photo Credit: barcar

7th Least Diverse: Maine


Rank, highest nonwhite population: 50th

Rank, highest foreign-born population: 43rd

Rank, highest mixed-race population: 29th

Despite being in the top 10 least diverse states, Maine actually ranks in the middle third of states with the largest proportion of residents who identify themselves as mixed-race. Unfortunately that one element of diversity is overshadowed by the fundamental whiteness of Maine’s population. Of its 1.3 million people, more than 96% are white, putting it second from last in that metric. With population growth at around one third of the national average (3.4% to 9.1% overall), it might take some time for those demographics to change.

Photo Credit: fortes

6th Least Diverse: Iowa


Rank, highest nonwhite population: 47th

Rank, highest foreign-born population: 38th

Rank, highest mixed-race population: 40th

Iowa, another landlocked state, is known for its corn, not its multiethnic makeup. Not surprising for a state whose capital city is French (Des Moines, or “of monks”) and whose flag is based on the French tricolore, its highest of the three rankings comes for its 38th-highest proportion of foreign-born residents. However, the state’s white population of 93.9% is well above the national average of 79.6%.

Photo Credit: Nicholas_T

5th Least Diverse: Kentucky


Rank, highest nonwhite population: 41st

Rank, highest foreign-born population: 46th

Rank, highest mixed-race population: 41st

Kentucky leads the nation in many important ways, but diversity isn’t one of them. The state hosts the most important horse race in the country (the Kentucky Derby, held in May), supplies the world with delicious Bourbon whiskey, entertains country music fans with its bluegrass style, and lays claim to two of the most influential Republican senators in Congress: Minority leader Mitch McConnell and Tea Party favorite Rand Paul. While Kentuckians may speak with an array of Southern accents, the state’s population is one of the most homogeneous in the country.

Photo Credit: Monique Wingard

3rd Least Diverse: New Hampshire


Rank, highest nonwhite population: 49th

Rank, highest foreign-born population: 31st

Rank, highest mixed-race population: 49th

Tied with North Dakota in the third spot, New Hampshire’s “live free or die” motto appears to resonate more with white Americans than other ethnicities. With second-to-last rankings in the size of its nonwhite and mixed-race population, the state’s foreign-born residents are likely the only thing saving it from taking the title of the least diverse overall. About a third of those foreign-born come from Europe, and among the total state population, the three most common ancestry groups are Irish (22.5%), English (19.3%) and French (17%).

Photo Credit: Leventhal Map Center

3rd Least Diverse: North Dakota


Rank, highest nonwhite population: 44th

Rank, highest foreign-born population: 47th

Rank, highest mixed-race population: 38th

Tied with New Hampshire, North Dakota’s cumulative ranking makes it the third least-diverse state in the union. Despite being a border state (with Canada just to the north), the high plains of North Dakota have a tiny population of just more than 670,000, with the largest nonwhite group being American Indians (5.6%).

Photo Credit: afiler

2nd Least Diverse: Vermont


Rank, highest nonwhite population: 51st

Rank, highest foreign-born population: 41st

Rank, highest mixed-race population: 39th

If diversity were measured in ice cream flavors, Vermont – home to Ben and Jerry of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream – would take the cake. Unfortunately, diversity as we rank it places Vermont at second-to-last on the list. Ranking dead last for the relative size of its white population (96.2% of total residents), the state’s other, less extreme rankings do nothing but keep it out of the bottom spot overall. Vermont’s second-largest ethnic group, people of Hispanic or Latino origin, makes up only 1.5% of the population.

Photo Credit: _rockinfree

Least Diverse: West Virginia


Rank, highest nonwhite population: 48th

Rank, highest foreign-born population: 51st

Rank, highest mixed-race population: 44th

Cue the fiddles, because the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia takes the top spot as the least diverse state in the U.S. Ranked last for its meager 1.1% foreign-born population and third from last for its 5.6% nonwhite population, the state’s most culturally interesting event is surely the annual Italian Heritage Festival, which celebrates the Mediterranean country’s contributions to American and West Virginian culture.

Photo Credit: Stella Blu

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