This could be an interesting research question as put by the Washington Post: “where do you experience diversity?” The question comes amidst recent changes in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area:
We all know how diverse our region is; the latest census shows that Washington is one of the eight major metropolitan areas that have become majority minority in the past decade.
But how do those statistics translate into actual diversity? Where are the places in our region where people of all races, creeds, colors and nationalities mix most freely? Where are the markets, playing fields, dog parks, theaters, shopping malls that attract the most diverse crowds? And what does diversity even mean to each of us?
And there is even a reference to Elijah Anderson’s recent concept of the “cosmopolitan canopy,” places where people of different races and social classes mingle.
Several thoughts come to mind:
1. What exactly do they mean when they ask about people “mix[ing] most freely”? Does this mean different people are simply in the same place, like a baseball stadium or a shopping mall, or they are actually interacting?
2. Several studies from earlier this year looked at segregation within American cities. In one study, Washington D.C. is the 20th most segregated city in the country. The dissimilarity score of 61.0 roughly means that 61% of the population would have to move for there to be an equal distribution of blacks and whites in the region. While there are cities that certainly have worse scores (Chicago, New York City, and Milwaukee are the top three), this isn’t necessarily good. The region may be majority-minority but that doesn’t mean that people live near each other.
2a. Here are some of the other US cities that became majority-minority by 2010: “Along with Washington, the regions surrounding New York, San Diego, Las Vegas and Memphis have become majority-minority since 2000. Non-Hispanic whites are a minority in 22 of the country’s 100-biggest urban areas.”
3. I wonder if this is kind of a silly question because it doesn’t get at the real issue: residential segregation. It is better to have people of different backgrounds mixing in public or private spaces than to not have this happen. But the real issue is that people of different races tend not to live near each other in the United States. When presented with the option of living with other races within the same neighborhood, whites opt out more often than not.
4. What will the newspaper do with this data regarding where people find diversity? Since it won’t be a representative sample (as a voluntary, online poll), I suspect they will profile some of these places to try to understand why they attract different groups of people.