10 Most Diverse Cities in the US – 2023 Update
The United States has long held a reputation for being an ethnic melting pot. The nation is built from numerous culturally diverse groups and has been shaped by waves of immigration that started long before the United States won its independence. Many Americans value diversity as a strength and look to live in ethnically diverse communities. Whether it is unique food, exhilarating festivals, or linguistic plurality, Americans love to create and populate diverse cities.
Despite the high levels of overall diversity in the United States, some places are more diverse than others. These are ten of the most diverse cities in the United States. This list contains large metropolises and small enclaves and factors in multiple different metrics that encapsulate the full diversity of the United States.
The 10 Most Diverse Cities in the US
1. Jersey City, New Jersey
|Ethnic Diversity Score:||72.69|
|Ethnoracial Diversity Rank:||3|
|Linguistic Diversity Rank:||2|
|Birthplace Diversity Rank:||164|
Jersey City, New Jersey, is located across the Hudson River from New York City. It has long been an embarkation point for new immigrants entering the United States. This fact can clearly be seen in the numbers, which rank Jersey City as the most diverse city in the United States by total ethnic diversity score.
Ellis Island, the historic entry point for millions of people immigrating to the United States, is clearly seen from Jersey City’s waterfront. Jersey City is the second largest city in New Jersey after Newark and is a short hop to New York City, which also rates as one of the most diverse cities in the United States.
2. San Jose, California
|Ethnic Diversity Score:||68.57|
|Ethnoracial Diversity Rank:||25|
|Linguistic Diversity Rank:||1|
|Birthplace Diversity Rank:||277|
San Jose is the second most diverse large city in the United States, but it ranks first for linguistic diversity. San Jose is a hotbed for technology companies and web development. Tech is one of the most diverse industries in the world, so it is no surprise that a major hub for technology companies would feature a strong number of unique languages.
San Jose is also interesting in that it features an equal number of white residents and Asian residents. According to the US Census, 37% of the population identifies as white, 37% of the population identifies as Asian, and nearly 8% identifies as having two or more racial identities. Those numbers combine to make San Jose one of the most diverse cities in the United States by far.
3. Oakland, California
|Ethnic Diversity Score:||68.5|
|Ethnoracial Diversity Rank:||1|
|Linguistic Diversity Rank:||30|
|Birthplace Diversity Rank:||205|
Oakland, California, ranks as the number three most racially diverse city in the US according to the ethnic diversity score. According to the US Census, Oakland’s racial makeup is comprised of the following:
|Black or African American:||22.69%|
|Two or more race:||8.43%|
|Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander:||0.60%|
There is no racial majority in Oakland. Instead, the city is represented by a strong plurality. Oakland’s position as a top-rated city in terms of ethnic diversity is not surprising, as it borders its historically diverse neighbor, San Francisco, which also appears on this list. Oakland also ranks highly in linguistic diversity, which rates the number of foreign languages spoken within the city. The combination of all the diversity metrics puts Oakland ninth overall in the United States and the third most diverse large city.
4. Germantown, MD
|Ethnic Diversity Score:||72.54|
|Ethnoracial Diversity Rank:||2|
|Linguistic Diversity Rank:||5|
|Birthplace Diversity Rank:||81|
Germantown, Maryland, is the most diverse small city in the United States. It ranks extremely high in both linguistic and racial diversity. Germantown is the second most ethnically diverse city in the United States, according to metrics compiled by WalletHub. With a population of less than 100,000, Germantown features a unique patchwork of different identities in a relatively small community.
It is fitting that Germantown was founded by immigrants and features the name of a foreign country. Germantown is 30 miles outside of Washington, DC, and is a key suburb of the DC metro area. Like the much larger San Jose, Germantown, Maryland, benefits from a strong technology sector and a history of immigration and racial diversity.
5. New York, NY
|Ethnic Diversity Score:||69.41|
|Ethnoracial Diversity Rank:||6|
|Linguistic Diversity Rank:||6|
|Birthplace Diversity Rank:||261|
It is no surprise to see New York City here on this list. New York City is the most diverse large city in the United States. The Big Apple has long been known for its magnetic draw for immigrants from all over the world. The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island stand as permanent reminders of New York’s immigrant past, present, and future.
Immigrants helped power New York to become the largest city in the United States. The city is a melting pot of a wide variety of global cultures from Chinese, Puerto Rican, Russian, Jewish, Italian, German, Greek, Polish, Arab, and more. Many ethnic groups have their own enclaves within the city where native culture thrives alongside American culture. In some parts of New York, you can walk multiple blocks and feel like you’ve crossed multiple state and national borders.
6. San Francisco, CA
|Ethnic Diversity Score:||66.46|
|Ethnoracial Diversity Rank:||28|
|Linguistic Diversity Rank:||19|
|Birthplace Diversity Rank:||117|
San Francisco, California, is the fourth most diverse large city in the United States, only coming behind New York, San Jose, and Oakland. It anchors a group of three California cities that top the four most diverse large cities in the United States. San Francisco is known for having an amazing food and architecture scene which is largely fueled by its diverse population.
San Francisco is home to large populations of Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and Mexican peoples. Over 34% of the city is foreign-born, which is astonishingly high. 10% of the city’s population is multiracial. All of these factors combine to create one of the greatest melting pots on the West Coast and one of the most diverse cities in the United States.
7. Houston, TX
|Ethnic Diversity Score:||64.52|
|Ethnoracial Diversity Rank:||39|
|Linguistic Diversity Rank:||29|
|Birthplace Diversity Rank:||245|
Houston is one of the largest cities in the United States and one of the most diverse. It is a hotbed of ethnic, racial, and linguistic diversity. People of all stripes have been drawn to Houston for its economic opportunities. Houston is a major shipping hub, banking center, and port. Houston has deep ties to the thriving refinery industry that lies on the southern Texas coast.
Houston also has a slew of great universities, restaurants, and shopping centers. It is one of the largest creators and exporters of famous Tex-Mex cuisine. The region is the final destination for many immigrants coming into the United States from Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. In Houston, one in three people speaks Spanish natively at home.
8. Boston, MA
|Ethnic Diversity Score:||65.61|
|Ethnoracial Diversity Rank:||24|
|Linguistic Diversity Rank:||36|
|Birthplace Diversity Rank:||118|
Before New York City took over as the immigration capital of the United States, Boston was the main harbor to which people coming from Europe would enter the colonial United States. Boston has a rich history that is deeply connected to British, German, Native, and American populations that have existed here since the 17th century.
Today, Boston is a thriving commercial hub that features high tech companies, hospitality, tourism, and transportation industries. It is the largest city in New England and remains a diverse hive of immigrants, businesspeople, and out-of-state transplants that love the city’s history and culture. Boston attracts thousands of new residents and tourists every year because of its historical value, excellent schools, and bastion of New England culture.
9. Silver Spring, MD
|Ethnic Diversity Score:||69.65|
|Ethnoracial Diversity Rank:||11|
|Linguistic Diversity Rank:||15|
|Birthplace Diversity Rank:||29|
Silver Spring, Maryland, is a major suburb of Washington, DC, and one of the most diverse places in the United States. It ranks highly in every diversity category, including a strong showing in the birthplace diversity rank (#29). Silver Spring features numerous well known cultural festivals every year, including food festivals, music festivals, and food festivals.
Silver Spring has an excellent food scene and ample public transportation options and is a short hop away from the nation’s capital. The city is home to large government agencies such as the FDA and NOAA, as well as some up-and-coming biotech companies, both of which help fuel a diverse population. Silver Spring is also located not far from Germantown, the most diverse small city in America.
10. Stockton, CA
|American Indian or Alaska Native:||0.5%|
|Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander:||0.7%|
Stockton, California, was rated the most racially diverse city in the United States by US News and World Report. Stockton is located between Modesto and Sacramento and sits just inland from San Jose and San Francisco. It is worth mentioning Stockton because they took this title and ran with it. Stockton now considers itself the most diverse city in the United States.
This is interesting because the city does not appear in most databases in a confusing statistical anomaly. Stockton counts its museums, shops, dining, and cultural festivals as hallmarks of its diversity. According to US News and World Report, Stockton edges out Oakland, Sacramento, and Los Angeles in terms of overall diversity.
All of the data used to compile the rankings, numbers, and metrics came from the US Census. The Census was conducted in 2020 and represents the most complete, comprehensive, and recent data regarding the demographics of the United States. That data was used by WalletHub to create unique metrics that were, in turn, used to rank cities by various factors. We borrowed heavily from WalletHub because we liked their focus on overall diversity rather than basic racial demographic data.
Some lists only use racial and ethnic demographics to rank cities. Other lists only focused on large cities and ignored smaller communities that feature a wonderful amount of diversity. We tried to blend the Census numbers, analytics, and city sizes to give a comprehensive overview that touches on all of those different factors.
Diversity Is Not Just About Race
Race and ethnicity are a large part of diversity metrics, but it is not the only factor that goes into the equation. Race, ethnicity, birth location, primary language, and secondary language all factor into the diversity of a city. A city made up of various Hispanic ethnicities that all speak Spanish might be considered less diverse than a more homogenous city with stronger linguistic and cultural diversity.
Similarly, diversity has nothing to do with the number of white or Caucasian residents. Caucasians have made up a majority of the United States for centuries, and therefore diversity has usually been measured against the white population of a region. But demographics are rapidly changing, and whites are quickly moving towards a plurality rather than a majority.
For example, Hialeah, Florida, is routinely ranked as one of the least diverse cities in America, but there are hardly any white residents. Over 80% of the population is Cuban, and almost everyone speaks Spanish as their first language. That makes the city highly homogenous, independent of any relationship to the Caucasian population.
Many people think diversity just has to do with race or the comparison between white and non-white populations, but it has to do with a lot more than just those factors.
The United States is a diverse country, and these cities represent some of the most diverse places in America. There are small northeastern towns, large western cities, and middling suburbs represented. Some cities are strongly Hispanic, European, or Asian. None of them are the same. Each one of these places is highly diverse and has a lot to offer to prospective visitors, tourists, and residents.
Featured Image Credit: Alisa Matthews, Unsplash