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FYI Guy

Seattle Times news librarian Gene Balk crunches the numbers

March 6, 2014 at 6:06 PM

Think Seattle isn’t diverse? Take a closer look

fyiguy-diversity-map-WEB (2)

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Is Seattle a racially diverse city?

We certainly value the principle of diversity here.  But many people would probably answer that question “No” because — let’s face it — for a big American city, Seattle is pretty white (65 percent, according to the most-recent census data).

And in fact, according to a well-known measure of diversity, Seattle is less diverse than most major U.S. cities.

That measure — called a diversity index — indicates the probability that any two people selected at random from the same place would be of a different race. The diversity index is expressed as a number from 0 to 100. The higher the number, the greater the diversity.

I calculated the diversity index for the 50 most-populous U.S. cities using data on five racial or ethnic categories (white, black, Asian, Hispanic, all others). Seattle scored 54. This means that if you randomly selected two people from Seattle, there is a 54 percent chance that they would be of different races.

That’s a much higher diversity index than the 33 scored by Detroit, the nation’s least-diverse big city (Detroit is more than 80 percent black). Even so, it ranks Seattle only 39th.

In fact, Seattle’s diversity is also lower than the nation’s as a whole. The diversity index for the United States is 56.

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But that isn’t the end of the story. Even though Seattle, overall, doesn’t have a high degree of diversity, if you focus on its neighborhoods, a different picture emerges.

I calculated the diversity index for each of Seattle’s 483 “block groups” — a small census geography, typically containing fewer than 2,000 people.

As you can see, there is a wide range of diversity among these small sections of Seattle. Many have a high degree of diversity, and one-third are more diverse than the U.S. average score, 56.

The highest diversity in Seattle runs from the Central District down through Rainier Valley, and in the Delridge and White Center sections of West Seattle. There is also above-average diversity in Northgate, around the University District, and in some downtown neighborhoods.

The most-diverse block group, with a diversity index of 77, is in Delridge, just to the east of the High Point development. This small area is 29 percent white, 26 percent black, 21 percent Asian, 16 percent Hispanic, and 8 percent people of some other race, or more than one race.

The least-diverse block group is located in south Madison Park, with a diversity index of just 13. That area is 93 percent white.

So is Seattle a racially diverse city? That really depends on where you’re looking.

Stay tuned. We’ll be analyzing Bellevue’s diversity in the next few days.

Comments | More in Demographics | Topics: diversity, race


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