A Universal Trend? Racial and Ethnic Diversity in American Communities over Three Decades
Barrett A. Lee, Pennsylvania State University
Chad R. Farrell, University of Alaska at Anchorage
Is growing racial and ethnic diversity a universal trend at the local level? If not, how and why do diversity patterns differ among communities? We address these questions with hypotheses drawn from the spatial assimilation, ethnic stratification, and ecological perspectives. Analysis of census and American Community Survey data for the 1980-2010 period indicates that nearly all metropolitan, micropolitan, and rural areas and their constituent places have experienced increases in diversity level, consistent with the convergence hypothesis. However, non-trivial variation across communities in racial-ethnic structure and in the pace of change is at least partially suggestive of divergence. We also find that more diverse communities are marked by large populations, coastal or southern border locations, many immigrants, a range of housing and occupational opportunities, and functional specialization as government or military centers. Lower racial-ethnic diversity is associated with a higher minority-to-white income ratio and specialization in retirement or higher education.