Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg


Washington, D.C. Moves Up List of Most Diverse Regions in U.S.

  • San Jose only area where no race dominates third of population
  • Scoring tracks concentration of racial groups in metro areas

The Washington, D.C. region moved up three places in the latest Bloomberg ranking of America’s most racially diverse metropolitan areas even as the debate over immigration between the White House and Congress heats up on its turf.

Led by an influx of Hispanics, diversity in the nation’s capital and its suburbs now stands at No. 6 out of 100 metro areas, based on U.S. Census Bureau data from 2010 and 2016. Central Americans have had a major presence in the community for years and the draw probably reflects greater job security.

“When the country falls on hard times our region does better” due to the proximity of the federal government, said Elizabeth Hardy, a planner and demographer with Arlington County, Virginia, government. Arlington sits west of the District of Columbia, just across the Potomac River. The region also benefits from a foreign tax base as diplomatic representatives and their families spend millions of dollars on consumer goods.

The proportion of Asians in the Washington region also increased, while the shares of whites and blacks declined. The District of Columbia government estimated that the population surpassed 700,000 in late February based on projections of US Census population estimates.

Change of Racial Makeup

Source: Bloomberg analysis of Census data

The nation’s capital hosts close to 200 foreign embassies, diplomatic missions and international organizations.

Diversity also increased in the Las Vegas area, which advanced three spots to No. 7 in the Bloomberg ranking.

Here’s the top five metro areas, in order: Urban Honolulu; San Francisco, San Jose and Stockton in California; and Houston. At the bottom of the list -- from 96 to 100 -- are Spokane, Washington; Pittsburgh and Scranton in Pennsylvania; Knoxville, Tennessee; and McAllen, Texas, on the Mexico border.

The New York City region, home of the 20th Century immigration hub of Ellis Island, improved in the diversity gauge, but fell behind a more rapidly changing Los Angles as the proportion of whites and blacks slightly declined while Asian and Hispanic populations increased.

San Jose, California, is the only U.S. metropolitan area where no race dominates more than one-third of the population.

Read More: largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. on their racial diversity

20 Most Diverse Metro Areas

Diversity index was based on the mathematical concept of the Herfindahl index, a score used in marketing, among many other applications, to gauge monopoly

Source: Bloomberg analysis of Census data

20 Least Diverse Metro Areas

Source: Bloomberg analysis of Census data Notes: Output only included 100 largest metro areas; Percentage of white, black and Asian only counting those of one race only; Hispanic group included all Hispanics, regardless of racial makeup; Native group included those self-identified as American Indian. Alaskan native, native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders; Other group included the remaining balance of population


Diversity scores for the 100 largest metro areas in the United States were calculated by Bloomberg News using a mathematical concept, the Herfindahl index. This gauge is often used to detect monopoly. That is, when one race dominates, let it be white, black or Asian, you get the worst outcome, a score of one, the equivalent of a racial monopoly. What happens when its only two races, the score already improves to 0.5, or a quite intuitive 50 percent improvement. The racial makeup for the Washington DC, a sprawling metropolitan area made up 23 counties in addition to the district, came out to 0.314.

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