Saturday, April 26, 2014

Where Are The Most Diverse US Census Tracts? - Chad Farrel at Press Club

Anchorage Press Club conference - Saturday morning panel that I attended. [Paraphrasing what he said quickly, read with caution.]

Starting with Sarah Palin's 2008 comment that Alaska is a microcosm of America which got a lot of flack, including Frank Rich.  Farrel showed up in Alaska to teach sociology and has found that, in fact, the US Census Bureau's 'broad, admittedly crude' categories of ethnicity, that Palin was actually accurate on this one.

  • White
  • Black/African American
  • Latino/HispanicAsian and Pacific Islander
  • Alaska Native/American Indian
  • Biracial/Multiracial

These broad categories miss a lot of the diversity that exists in each category.

Also show the socially constructed nature of race, why I use "Ethno-racial" diversity.

Formula - you could do this analysis with income, age, occupational diversity etc.  Not
just racial.

Get statistics that are intuitive to normal folks.  You get:

1.  Number of groups present in an area
2.  Size relative to one another

Imagine three neighborhoods.
1.  All white (not many left in US)  - no ethno-racial diversity
2.  Mixed, but 99% white - still more diverse than #1
3.  Mixed, all equal sized - high level of diversity

This index takes this factors into account - from 0 - 100.

0 =  just one group
100 = all six groups the same size

And inbetween, lots of variation.

How diverse is Alaska compared to rest of US?

Frank Rich was right in terms of Blacks and Hispanics, but he left out our Native population and bi-racial, multi-racial identity.

Alaska is 5th behind Hawaii, California, Nevada, and New York.  73 72 69 66.3  66.1

Multiple pathways to scoring high.   Where does Alaska rank?


Compared to US as a whole, Alaska ranks a little higher.  Big surge after 1990 - first year Census allowed people to check more than one box.  Resulted in the surge.

Moving to Anchorage

San Francisco (#2 - 77) more diverse than Anchorage. (#30 - 64)

Anchorage (#30) more diverse than Seattle (#43)

Q:  What about military?
A:  Plays a big role.  Military the most diverse social institutions in the country.

More diverse than most Western cities and US.  Gap is widening in 2010 Census from 2000. 

Moving into diversity within the groups.

American Community Survey - Census data collected between the decennial years.  Doesn't count everyone, but one question allows person to identify 'ancestry or ethnic origin' with examples.

Farrel too all the groups with more than 1000 for Anchorage - pooled from five year chunk, bigger sample size.   image

Some people put down "American."  Discussions in my class whether American can be an ethnic group.  (Largest proportion of Americans in Southern states.)

Q:  Yupik didn't hit 1000?
A:  No, but a lot of people didn't fill out the question.

Q:  Did this include Matsu?
A:  Not this one, but the previous data did, which brings the diversity down.

Q:  Sense that Yupik population equals the Athabascan?
A:  Can't really speculate.  Will say ethnic identity is fluid.

Linguistic Diversisty
Anchorage School District 95 different langauges spoken at home.

UAA - lots of student diversity

Why is Anchorage so diverse?  Characteristics of diverse metropolitan areas.  (Not necessarily causes, housing could be consequence.)
Coastal/Border state  √
Large population
Renter households  √
Military presence  √
Immigrant gateway
Immigrant outpost  √
Youthful population  √

Click to enlarge

Guiding Questions:

Neighborhoods - census tracts (not necessarily neighborhoods - about 4000 population)
Use census tracts as a proxy.  Track 11    - cluster of Mountain View, 6, 9.01 (merril field) and 8.01  (Wonder Park).

Three most diverse tracts in US.  The one thing that makes them diverse in Anchorage is the Native population.

Further down the list - most tracts in Anchorage have higher than US average diversity.

High Schools

Parent asked if East High was, based on the tracts diversity, the most diverse high schools.
18,000 public high schools - East, Bartlett, West high schools most diverse in US.
Anchorage high schools more than double diversity of average high school.

Q:  Why higher diversity in high schools than tracts?
A:  1.  immigrants tend to be younger and of child bearing age.

Q:  Schools more diverse because of less residential segregation?
A:  There is segregation, but less than other metro areas in US.  Did study on exposure to diversity by whites and Anchorage is higher.

Next steps:

1.  What are the consequences of diversity?  Can't get at that just with the numbers.  But intergroup contact theory covers this.  Lots of lit.  Exposure to diversity tends to increase tolerance for out groups.  Reduces reliance of stereotypes and prejudice.  Can see individual variations which undermines stereotypes.
2.  How do residents experience and negotiate diversity in their daily lives?   # 1 works if social-economic groups, in the same school class.  Integrated or diverse group working toward the same goal.  Benefit of contact.

But, if inequality layered on top of diversity?  Groups competing for scarce resources - who gets the soccer field at the park?

I've given top down view, but we experience diversity on the ground, and that's where the media comes in.  Journalists have a unique skill set to dig up these stories and how we're negotiating diversity in our daily lives.  We're at the forefront of that trend in the US (increasing diversity).  How we negotiate that trend has implications for the rest of the US. 


  1. Incorporate the data on employment and the attendant wage inequality and you'll see a direct correlation to such area specific diversity.

    Drill down further into the data and you could find the least diverse areas.

    Once you've found the least diverse areas, we'll see some more representations of that wage inequality mentioned above.

    There's no question that inequality is layered on top of diversity.
    Results of that inequality culminate in more extreme examples than just who gets the soccer field. Examples like who gets livable housing and who gets enough food to eat.

    Anchorage might have some areas of statistically high diversity, but if diversity breeds tolerance, Alaska is way behind that curve.

  2. People asked about economic diversity too and the correlations between that and ethnoracial diversity. Farrel said that you could use the same process to look at different characteristics such as income to sort the data, though it depends on the Census Bureau categories available.

    There were conditions where diversity leads to tolerance and conditions where it doesn' mentioned at the end.

  3. Just want to add my two cents for the term 'ethnoracial', Steve. In the United Kingdom, ethnicity is often conflated with race. As such, the term ethnoracial better defines what divides here in Britain, whilst never forgetting class privilege as artifact of l'ancien régime, of course!

    Regardless, how our terms actually apply and describe on-the-ground consequences in effecting opportunity and equality is where the fun begins, isn't it?


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