California is the most diverse state in the US, West Virginia comes in last, and Houston tops the list among cities, finds study

A survey that came out during the Hispanic Heritage Month compares states and cities on grounds of diversity — socio-economic, cultural, economic, religious and others. And some findings are quite interesting.

                            California is the most diverse state in the US, West Virginia comes in last, and Houston tops the list among cities, finds study
People walk past the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on February 12, 2020 in New York City. The market closed up over 250 points as gains in tech companies and retailers outweighed concerns over the coronavirus.

The evolution of the United States as a melting pot is nothing new. Whether Donald Trump likes it or not, America’s multicultural history is something that can't be erased and if the country's Census Bureau is to be believed, non-Hispanic whites will no longer be a single majority in another four decades.

According to the bureau's findings, the US minority population is projected to go up to 56 percent of the total in the year 2060, compared to 38 percent in 2014.

As the US is set to turn more diverse over the next few decades, it is interesting to see how this trend unfolds at the state level. Personal finance website WalletHub recently came up with a study comparing all 50 states on key parameters to understand how diverse they are.

The ongoing Hispanic Heritage Month, where the contributions of the Hispanic and Latino people towards the country's history and culture are recognized, made the study even more relevant.

WalletHub’s study, titled 2019’s Most & Least Diverse States in America is based on comparisons on six key categories of diversity — socio-economic, cultural, economic, household, religious and political.

The most and least diverse states

California has been found to be the most diverse of all 50 states of the country with an overall score of 70.84. The Golden State is ranked first on the cultural diversity index, third in socio-economic diversity, fifth in household diversity, eighth in political diversity, 11th in economic diversity and 32nd in religious diversity. 

Texas is ranked second with a score of 70.01 and while it is ranked fourth in cultural diversity and sixth in religious diversity, its ranking is beyond 10 in the other four criteria. 

Hawaii, New Jersey and New York come in the next three positions with scores of 69.59, 69.44 and 69.17, respectively. 

West Virginia, with a score of 58.32, is the worst-placed state in the table and hence the least diverse state in the US. In terms of socio-economic and cultural diversities, it is ranked 50th while its best ranking is in economic diversity where it is the 19th position.

The three north-eastern states of Maine (58.48), Vermont (59.80) and New Hampshire (60.82) are the next least diverse states. New Hampshire, however, doesn't do too badly in socio-economic diversity where it is ranked ninth.

The study also came up with some other interesting observations. It said Alaska has the highest income diversity which is 1.5 times more than Mississippi, the state with the lowest.

Hawaii, on the other hand, has the highest racial and ethnic diversity and it is 3.1 times more than in Maine which is the lowest in the table. In terms of language diversity, California is the best and it is doing 2.3 times better than the worst-placed West Virginia.

Similarly, Nevada has the highest birthplace diversity which is three times better than Louisiana, the lowest-ranked, and North Dakota, the state with the highest religious diversity and doing twice better than Maine, the worst performer. 

What experts think about diversity

WalletHub also spoke with experts on the issue of diversity and made some interesting observations. Erika Weissinger, visiting assistant professor, University of California, Berkeley, was asked about the effect diversity has on social innovation and cohesion. She replied that diversity is critical to social innovation.

"Studies have found that when we work in groups of people similar to us, we are more likely to go along with the popular view and make mistakes. Having diverse teams encourages independent thought which in turn garners more creative solutions."

David Elcott, Henry and Marilyn Taub Professor of Practice in Public Service and Leadership, New York University, was asked how states can take advantage of their diversity in order to bolster economic growth.

He shared, "While there is debate about diversity and team function, in an increasingly diverse and market-driven United States, to ignore potential markets is simply foolish. And if companies want their products or services to reach a larger percentage of the population, it is not enough to offer valuable products."

"You need marketing that is sensitively niched, you need product developers that are aware of cultural expectations of diverse communities, you need sales folk and service providers who understand the needs of their clients, you need faces that look like the very people you want to attract," he added.

"We would think that it is hard to imagine state or local governments not absorbing these truths. But then, passing legislation on who is allowed in what bathroom, while satisfying certain constituencies, will cause others, including major corporations, to flee," Elcott revealed.

He continued, "Not protecting and enhancing the rights of groups that have been marginalized, from women and LGBTQ to immigrants or people of color, runs the danger of economic backlash, product or even state boycotts where conventions are canceled and companies move their headquarters to places that will offer greater choices in hiring and marketing."

"There seems to be little economic incentive to ignore the reality that, as America gets increasingly diverse, markets will need to reflect that diversity," he added.

Diversity of cities

Besides the states, WalletHub also studied the diversity of the cities and included 501 of them and compared them over five categories of diversity — socio-economic, cultural, household, economic and religious. 

It was seen that out of 501, Houston in Texas bagged the top rank with a score of 71.60. Houston, however, doesn't get the top rank in any of the categories and its best is only 29th which is in the "cultural".

Jersey City, New Jersey, comes second with a score of 71.52 but it grabs the top position in cultural diversity. New York comes third with a score of 71.47 and a cultural rank of six.

A lesser known Gaithersburg in Maryland occupies the fourth position with 71.23 and does very well in terms of socio-economic and cultural diversities by finishing second in both categories.

Topping the table as the Least Diverse American city is Provo in Utah with a score of 54.35. It is ranked 500th in terms of religious diversity. The next least diverse city is Bangor, the city of residence of author Stephen King, with a score of 54.56.

Orem in Utah is the third least diverse city with a score of 55.51 although it is ranked within 100 in the category of socio-economic diversity.

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