America has been known as “the great melting pot” for well over two centuries, and, in fact, was founded on the idea that our diversity makes us stronger as a whole. That said, there’s no question that it takes people of diverse backgrounds, cultures, and ethnicities—even ages, wealth, and education—to make a country great, and the same is true about cities, towns, and smaller places.
With this in mind, the Movoto Real Estate Blog set out to create a new kind of data-driven ranking that looks at how diverse the largest places within a state are. For our first stop, we decided to focus on Michigan, a state that has long embraced and relied on its diverse populace. As it turns out, no place in the Great Lakes State more diverse that Southfield. This Detroit suburb topped the a list of the 10 most diverse spots in the state, which included:
1. City of Southfield
2. City of Dearborn
3. City of Midland
4. City of Battle Creek
5. City of Grand Rapids
6. City of Oak Park
7. City of Farmington Hills
8. City of Dearborn Heights
9. City of Farmington
10. City of Holland
What do we mean by “diverse,” and how did we actually measure it? We’ll explain that next, as well as go into more detail about which places fared best (and worst) across the criteria we looked at. Plus, at the end of this post, you can find a full ranking of every place in Michigan we studied.
How We Did It
Diversity is a term typically used to talk about a mix of people from different cultural or ethnic backgrounds, but it can actually cover so much more. For this ranking, we actually looked at diversity in four separate criteria: race, age, income, and education.
To get started, we compiled a list of the 100 most populated places in Michigan. We then used data from the 2010 U.S. Census to create a diversity index for each place in each of the four criteria. Using the index, we were able to see which places had the most equal distribution of different income groups, age groups, etc. and thus were the most diverse.
Once these indices were created, we ranked each each place across all four criteria from 1 to 100, with one being the most diverse. These four rankings were averaged into one overall Big Deal Score to determine the winner.
We determined Southfield to be the most diverse place overall, but there were places that were more (and less) diverse within the individual categories. Next up, we’ll explain the exact data we looked at for each of the four categories and which places ranked highest (and lowest) in them.
This is diversity in the most traditional sense. To determine which places were the most diverse here, we used the U.S. Census (2010) to find what percentage of their population belonged to the following groups:
- White Alone
- African American Alone
- Native American and Alaska Native Alone
- Asian Alone
- Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander Alone
- Some Other Race Alone
- Two or More Races
As we explained above, the most racially diverse place was the one that had the most even distribution across the various racial groups. The most diverse city in this regard was Ecorse, whose population (9,512) broke down as follows:
At the other end of the scale was Marysville, the least diverse place in Michigan. Its various groups (comprising a population of 9,959) broke down as follows:
Next up we looked at how diverse the populous of each town was in terms of age. The Census actually breaks up age groups into 12 total, ranging from under five years to 85 years and over. The most diverse places in Michigan in terms of age groups was Riverview (population 12,486) and its numbers looked like this:
The least age-diverse place in Michigan was East Lansing (population 48,579), where 61 percent of the population was between 18 and 24 years old. This makes perfect sense, seeing as East Lansing is the home of Michigan State University. Its stats broke down like this:
We also considered which places had the most even distribution of wealth—in other words, which ones had the most equal number of people in each income bracket. The Census breaks down individual (per capita) average income into 16 brackets, which you can see in the chart below. The most diverse place in terms of income ended up being Midland, a city of 41,683 and our third most diverse place overall. Its income diversity looks like this:
At the other end of the spectrum as the least diverse place in Michigan when it comes to income was Benton Harbor. A whopping 27.4 percent of this city’s 10,038 residents make less than $10,000 per year. When put into chart form, its lack of income diversity looks like this:
Finally, we considered diversity as it applies to education attainment. The way we measured this was by finding the percentage of residents in each place who fall into the following groups:
- Less than high school
- High school graduate (or equivalent)
- Some college
- Bachelor’s degree obtained
- Master’s degree obtained
- Professional school degree obtained
- Doctorate degree obtained
The place with the most diversity in terms of education level was East Lansing, which, as we pointed out earlier, is the home of Michigan State University. Thirty-one percent of the 48,579 people in this city have at least a bachelor’s degree, but still the overall breakdown of percentages is the most evenly distributed of any place we looked at. Its stats looked like this:
As for the place that got an F in education diversity, that was Muskegon Heights, a city of 10,856. There, things skew towards the bottom of the scale and the data looked like this:
Diversity Is The Spice Of Life
Once we factored in all four categories, the most diverse place in Michigan turned out to be Southfield—which, as you’ve probably noticed, didn’t actually rank as the most or least diverse in any individual category. Instead, it ranked highest when looked at across the board.
This really isn’t very surprising when you look at Southfield’s history. It was one of the first suburbs established outside of Detroit, and initially attracted a large number of Jewish residents. They were joined during the 1980s by African American families moving out from Detroit, and subsequently became the wealthiest city in the country with a majority black population, on a per capita basis. In more recent years, lower income residents from Detroit, leaving in the wake of the city’s decline, have contributed to Southfield’s diverse ethnic and economic mix.
The least diverse place we looked at, on the other hand, was East Grand Rapids. There, the residents are predominantly white (97 percent), between 45 and 54 years old (19 percent), have a bachelor’s degree (45 percent), and make between $75,000 and 100,000 per year (13.6 percent). It’s not so much a melting pot as a high-end fondue set, but Michigan wouldn’t be the state it is without it.
Movoto Real Estate’s Most Diverse Places In Michigan
|City||Population||Rank||Age Diversity Rank||Race Diversity Rank||Education Diversity Rank||Income Diversity Rank||Big Deal Score|
|Grosse Pointe Park||11,555||49||55||52||4||88||49.75|
|Sault Ste. Marie||14,144||55||68||28||55||56||51.75|
|Grosse Pointe Woods||16,135||64||25||84||23||84||54|
|St. Clair Shores||59,715||72||47||69||62||51||57.25|
|Grosse Pointe Farms||9,479||96||64||99||45||95||75.75|
|East Grand Rapids||10,694||100||83||95||80||94||88|