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Seattle Times news librarian Gene Balk crunches the numbers

March 17, 2014 at 6:00 AM

With new diversity, Bellevue defies its “Blah-vue” image

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Click to enlarge

If you had to guess, which of these two neighborhoods would you say is the more racially diverse: Capitol Hill’s hip, edgy Pike/Pine — or Bellevue’s BMW-filled, mall-packed downtown?

If that setup didn’t make it completely obvious, the “surprise” answer is: downtown Bellevue.

In fact, according to a well-known measure of diversity, Bellevue, overall, is a more diverse city than Seattle.

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 index is expressed as a number from 0 to 100. The higher the number, the greater the diversity.

Using demographic data on five racial or ethnic categories (white, black, Asian, Hispanic, all others), I calculated Bellevue’s diversity index at 58. This means that if you randomly selected two people who live in Bellevue, there is a 58 percent chance that they would be of different races.

That’s four points higher than Seattle’s diversity index of 54, which I wrote about recently.

This may come as a surprise to those Seattleites who still think of Bellevue as “Blah-vue” — the homogeneous, white, well-heeled suburb across the lake. In truth, Bellevue hasn’t been that place for a long time. Seattle Times readers might recall that as far back as 2006 we reported on the remarkable demographic transformation under way in Bellevue, with one-third of its population identifying as nonwhite.

Bellevue’s jump in diversity is mainly due to its rapidly growing Asian population, now nearly 30 percent of the city’s total. The Hispanic community is comparable to Seattle’s — both stand at about 7 percent — but Bellevue’s black population is much smaller.

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Click to enlarge

For a closer look at Bellevue neighborhoods, I calculated the diversity index for each of the city’s 85 “block groups” – a small census geography typically containing fewer than 2,000 people.

Bellevue’s diversity mapped out very differently than Seattle’s. In Bellevue, areas of high diversity are dispersed across the city; in Seattle, they tend to be clumped together.

And Bellevue’s diversity is more consistent. In fact, more than half of Bellevue’s block groups have a diversity index score of 54 or higher. In Seattle, it’s only about one-third.

Bellevue’s least-diverse block group, with a score of 30, is located in West Bellevue. This area is 83 percent white. But it is Bellevue’s only block group that falls into this lowest-diversity category. In Seattle, nearly one-quarter of block groups are in this bottom tier, with diversity scores of 30 or less.

Bellevue’s most diverse block group, with a diversity index of 74, straddles the West Lake Hills and Crossroads neighborhoods. This small area is 33 percent white, 27 percent Asian, 26 percent Hispanic, 8 percent black, and 6 percent people of some other race, or of more than one race.

Blah-vue?  Not so much.

Comments | More in Demographics | Topics: Bellevue, diversity, race


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