we're no. 2 (but are we?)

Houston lands questionable No. 2 spot on list of America's most diverse cities

Houston lands questionable No. 2 spot on list of most diverse cities

Houston skyline
A recent study has named the Bayou City the second-most diverse city in the nation.  Photo by Tim Leviston/Getty Images

A new study has ranked Houston as the No. 2 most diverse city in the country. The (somewhat dubious) first-place honor of The Most Diverse City in America goes to Jersey City, New Jersey. But with Houston already anointed as the most the diverse city in the nation, is this new report a case of fuzzy math?

Dr. Stephen Klineberg, a lauded local academic, researcher, and speaker points out a particular flaw in the report published by WalletHub. Jersey City’s overall diversity score is 71.51; Houston comes in at 71.49. The rankings measure socioeconomic, cultural, economic, household, and religious diversity across 501 cities in the U.S.

“Yes, Jersey City may be listed as more ethnically diverse,” Klineberg tells CultureMap. “But it’s much smaller. You have to take size into consideration — Houston is by far the most ethnically diverse large city in America.” (To wit: Houston is more than 627 square miles; Jersey City is little more than 21 square miles. Not a small difference in sample size.) When measured by city size, Houston ranks first overall among large cities. 

The Rice University professor, whose work at The Kinder Institute for Urban Research and Kinder Institute Houston Area Survey are staples of demographic research, says that the metrics used in the WalletHub are a bit of an “arbitrary” measure. The WalletHub survey utilizes the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index method, which, according to the study, “is a commonly accepted measure of market concentration that also works effectively as a general-purpose measure of diversity.”

Meanwhile, The Kinder Institute uses a one-fourth model: that is, how close a population comes to one-fourth Asian, one-fourth Latino, one-fourth African American, and one-fourth Anglo.

Klineberg points to Fort Bend County, in particular, as a forecast of the nation’s future. “Sugar Land is 20 percent Asian, 24 percent Latino, 21 percent African-American, and 34 percent Anglo,” he says. “It’s hard to get more diverse than that.”

With its young population growth, Houston is far more diverse than Los Angeles, Chicago, or Miami, Klineberg says. “No city has been transformed as rapidly and as irreversibly as Houston,” he says. His copious amounts of data show that “the future of Houston is African-American, Latino, and Asian. Anglo-Americans are projected to be minorities in America by 2050. By our projection, in 2050, America will look like Houston.”

Six Texas cities landed in the top 50 cities of WalletHub’s survey. Dallas comes in at No. 5 with a score of 70.97. Arlington follows at No. 10 with a score of 70.72. Fort Worth comes in No. 26 with a score of 69.78. Austin ranks No. 38 with a score of 69.16, and further down the list at No. 50 is Plano with a rank of 68.56. The rankings change significantly when measured by city size. Among large cities, Houston ranks first, Dallas third, Arlington sixth, and Fort Worth 10th.

"The story in all this,” says Klineberg, “is that America is in the midst of epic transportation. We are the first and only nation that can say, ‘We are a free people and we come from everywhere.’”