The Most Diverse States in America

Stirring the Melting Pot

Almost everyone in the world, no matter where they were born, knows the story of the early U.S. as one of multiculturalism. But immigration in the U.S. is still a contentious issue, with racism still very much a reality and the recession bringing a renewed focus on the demographics of the workforce. But as with everything in this federation of states, the story is not the same everywhere. Border states like Texas, Arizona and California are tasked with enforcing much of the country’s immigration policy, while states with large urban areas like San Francisco and New York City are forced to integrate immigrants into often-scarce real estate. Photo Credit:  OregonDOT


Measuring Multiculturalism

To compare the multiculturalism of all states in the union and Washington, D.C., MainStreet looked at the most recent figures from the American Community Survey (2009) and compared three-year averages for each state’s white population (to rank the proportion of the nonwhite population), foreign-born population (to get the population from other countries regardless of race) and mixed-race population (to see which state has the most people claiming two or more races). Each state was ranked in each category, with the combination of all three rankings determining its position on this list. We count down from 10 to one, so read to the end to find the most diverse state in the U.S. We also broke down the Least Diverse States in America, and the comparisons are telling. Photo Credit: Adria.Richards


10th Most Diverse: Washington

Rank, highest nonwhite population (2007-2009): 27th Rank, highest foreign-born population (2007-2009): 15th Rank, highest mixed-race population (2007-2009): 4th One of three states on the West Coast, Washington state also shares a border with Canada, though it’s hard to say how that has affected its immigrant population. The state has long been a destination for Asian immigrants from the other side of the Pacific Ocean, though the Asian population (7%) came in second behind the population of Hispanic or Latino origin (10.3%) in 2009. Washington’s highest ranking is as the state with the fourth-highest proportion of residents identifying themselves as two or more races (4%), perhaps a reflection of its long history of immigration. Photo Credit: dhrerra_96


9th Most Diverse: Virginia

Rank, highest nonwhite population (2007-2009): 14th Rank, highest foreign-born population (2007-2009): 16th Rank, highest mixed-race population (2007-2009): 15th The state of Virginia makes the top 10 thanks to decent rankings in each of the three measures of diversity in our analysis. While it doesn’t stand out in any of them, the state’s border with Washington, D.C., the seat of foreign embassies and a plethora of international organizations like the World Bank and the IMF, likely contributes to its diverse population. The state’s largest nonwhite population group, by far, is the black community, which made up 20% of the resident population in 2009, considerably more than the national average of 12.9%. Photo Credit: Jeffrey Johnson


8th Most Diverse: Arizona

Rank, highest nonwhite population (2007-2009): 23rd Rank, highest foreign-born population (2007-2009): 8th Rank, highest mixed-race population (2007-2009): 12th Home to former presidential candidate John McCain, Arizona has been in the public eye more than once for its harsh approach to immigrants. Its support of a controversial border fence to stem illegal immigration from Mexico was backed by legislation passed last year, which many thought unfairly targeted Latinos, who made up more than 30% of the state’s population in 2009. Note: Arizona's combined score tied New York's (next slide). It is ranked below the Empire State because two of New York's associated rankings were in the top 10, while only one of Arizona's broke the top 10 for the category. Photo Credit: Ken Lund


7th Most Diverse: New York

Rank, highest nonwhite population (2007-2009): 8th Rank, highest foreign-born population (2007-2009): 2nd Rank, highest mixed-race population (2007-2009): 32nd The only surprise about New York’s inclusion on this list is the state’s failure to break even the top five for diversity. New York City, a metropolis of 8 million people, includes more than 3 million born outside the U.S. With an overall foreign population of more than 20% in 2009, the state has the second-highest proportion of foreign-born residents in the country. Note: New York's combined score tied Arizona's (previous slide). It is ranked higher because two of New York's associated rankings were in the top 10, while only one of Arizona's broke the top 10 for the category. Photo Credit: video4net


6th Most Diverse: New Mexico

Rank, highest nonwhite population (2007-2009): 15th Rank, highest foreign-born population (2007-2009): 18th Rank, highest mixed-race population (2007-2009): 9th Like its neighbor Arizona, New Mexico finds itself on the forefront of immigration debates, and may be a portent of the changing demographics of the country as a whole. Constant immigration from Mexico has actually led to a higher proportion of Hispanic or Latino residents than non-Hispanic whites in the state, measuring 45.6% and 40.9% in 2009, respectively. Photo Credit: a4gpa


5th Most Diverse: Alaska

Rank, highest nonwhite population (2007-2009): 10th Rank, highest foreign-born population (2007-2009): 24th Rank, highest mixed-race population (2007-2009): 2nd With an American Indian/Alaska Native population amounting to 15.2% of the state’s almost 700,000 people in 2009, Alaska has seen plenty of intermingling among its population, leading to its second-highest proportion of mixed-race residents. Photo Credit: roger4336


4th Most Diverse: Maryland

Rank, highest nonwhite population (2007-2009): 4th Rank, highest foreign-born population (2007-2009): 13th Rank, highest mixed-race population (2007-2009): 17th In a story similar to Virginia’s, the fourth most diverse state also owes much of its identity to neighboring Washington, D.C. The Maryland suburbs of Potomac and Bethesda have long been known for their multicultural populations, as foreigners who come to work for D.C.’s international organizations settle in the state next door. Maryland’s highest ranking comes in the proportion of its nonwhite population (fourth-highest in the U.S.), as its black population comprised almost 30% of state residents in 2009. Photo Credit: Scaramouche!


3rd Most Diverse: Nevada

Rank, highest nonwhite population (2007-2009): 20th Rank, highest foreign-born population (2007-2009): 4th Rank, highest mixed-race population (2007-2009): 7th Bringing us into the top three is Nevada, the state that experienced the most dramatic growth in population between 2000 and 2010, at 32.3%. A landlocked state, Nevada has nevertheless been able to assemble a multicultural population, with top 10 rankings in both foreign-born population and the mixed-race population. With 19.2% of residents born outside the U.S. and 3.2% identifying themselves as more than one race in 2009, it appears that the neon lights of Las Vegas have attracted people of all backgrounds. Photo Credit: matze_ott


2nd Most Diverse: California

Rank, highest nonwhite population (2007-2009): 5th Rank, highest foreign-born population (2007-2009): 1st Rank, highest mixed-race population (2007-2009): 5th Coming in at an unsurprising second place is California, whose border with Mexico and huge expanse of coastline have made it the first point of entry for a huge number of immigrants over the years. Ranking first in the nation for its foreign-born population, California ranks fifth both for the proportion of its residents that are nonwhite and the proportion that are of mixed race. The state’s 26.2% foreign-born residents in 2009 was more than double the national average of 11.1%, and its nonwhite population was more evenly distributed than most states’, with significant amounts of black people (6.6%), Asians (12.7%) and Latinos (37%) making up the state population. Photo Credit: tensaibuta


Most Diverse: Hawaii

Rank, highest nonwhite population (2007-2009): 1st Rank, highest foreign-born population (2007-2009): 6th Rank, highest mixed-race population (2007-2009): 1st At the top of the list is, understandably, the state that lies farthest from the homeland: the volcanic island paradise of Hawaii. Ranking first for its nonwhite population (69.8% in 2009) and mixed-race population (18% in 2009), Hawaii is far above the national averages for all three categories. It stands to reason, then, that Barack Obama, the country’s first mixed-race president (born to a white mother and black father), was born in the most diverse state in the union. Photo Credit: BlueWaikiki.com


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