Diversity Spreads to All Corners of the U.S.

Haya El Nassar, USA Today, September 6, 2012

The number of nearly all-white communities has plummeted since 1980, dramatic evidence that the nation’s growing racial and ethnic diversity has spread far beyond large metropolitan centers into smaller towns and rural parts of the heartland, new research shows.

Communities where whites are the majority are still the norm (82.6%), but those where they dominate are gradually disappearing, according to an analysis of Census data by Penn State’s Population Research Institute. In 1980, about two-thirds of all places were at least 90% white. By 2010, only a third were. The number of places where no group is a majority has more than quintupled.

“This trend is pretty geographically pervasive, and even residents of small towns and rural areas are encountering diversity face to face,” says Barrett Lee, Penn State sociologist and demographer and lead author of the study released today. “It’s not something they just read about in the newspapers anymore.”

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The impact is striking in rural areas where white populations are shrinking as young people leave and the elderly who stay die. When Hispanics and Asians move in, minority kids are born and alter the dynamics. Many rural schools have added English-as-a-second-language classes and social service agencies have hired translators.

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Lee warns that diversity does not end segregation. People of all races can live in the same city but still in separate neighborhoods.

The Penn State research (www.s4.brown.edu/us2010/Data/Data.htm), one in a series on recent trends in American society by the US2010 Project, found that California cities dominate the list of most diverse places (Oakland, Vallejo and Suisin City). {snip}

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