Four Maryland cities, each close to the District, are among the top 10 most ethnically diverse cities in America, according to a new study by D.C.-based personal finance website WalletHub.
Gaithersburg, Germantown, Silver Spring and Rockville ranked second, third, fifth and seventh, respectively, among the top 10.
Jersey City, New Jersey, came in first while Spring Valley, Nevada (4), New York City (6), Oakland, Calif. (8), San Jose, Calif. (9), and Kent, Washington (10) rounded out the top 10.
The District finished 105 out of 500 cities ranked in the survey, where to identify the most ethnically diverse places in America.
To identify the most ethnically diverse places in America, WalletHub compared more than 500 of the largest U.S. cities across three key metrics — ethno-racial diversity, linguistic diversity and birthplace diversity.
The study also found that Oakland, Calif., has the highest racial and ethnic diversity, which is four times higher than in Hialeah, Fla., the city with the lowest.
Hialeah had the highest concentration of Hispanics or Latinos, at 96.05 percent, while Rutland, Vermont, contained the highest level of whites, at 94.95 percent.
Jackson, Miss., has the highest concentration of Blacks, at 81.80 percent.
“An ethnically diverse city has many benefits. You learn about different cultures, experience various foods, get a wide range of opinions, and become open to the beautiful textures of humanity,” said WalletHub expert Daniel E. Goldberg, an assistant professor of Instruction and academic director of the Business Management BBA Program at the Fox School of Business at Temple University.
“The challenges some may face is the ability to maintain an open mind to learn and suspend, or at the very least minimize, judgment,” Goldberg said. “When a city’s composition changes rapidly, some people may, because of their past comfort zone, become uncomfortable. That can be averted by practicing open communication between ‘old’ and ‘new’ residents.”
Lu Wendy Yan, another WalletHub expert and an assistant professor of the Ethnic Studies Department at the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Minnesota State University-Mankato, said there are many benefits for ethnically diverse cities.
“First, people would have more opportunities to debunk racial and ethnic stereotypes and myths. Through interpersonal relations with their neighbors and fellow residents, they would understand that our society can’t be simply divided as ‘us’ versus ‘others.’” Mankato said. “Residents would realize that their neighbors and fellow residents are not some abstractions that existed outside our society. Rather, we are all connected in word and work within this society.”
Mankato added further that an ethnically diverse community or city would nurture more open-minded and empathetic citizens who are also managers, workers, friends, and neighbors in the city.
“Through interacting with different perspectives, cultures, and values, people will start to unlearn some of their internalized prejudice, and contribute more to our democratic society as critical thinkers,” Mankato said.
She also acknowledges some of the potential challenges of living in an ethnically diverse city.
“Without implementing accessible and appropriate multicultural education for the public, it can be challenging for some to live coherently in an ethnically diverse community or city,” Mankato said. “Some persistent prejudice may lead to discrimination and even hate crimes. Misunderstandings and miscommunications may also reinforce some racial and ethnic stereotypes and myths.”
Goldberg noted that states and local governments should work to implement programs that foster inclusion.
“Remember, the root of the word diversity is divide. That can be a dangerous thing,” Goldberg said. “I believe that, while we should celebrate different cultures and ethnicities, we should strive for inclusiveness in all that we do.
“Training programs, workshops, and other events should highlight our sameness with stories and situations that we can all identify with so that our ‘oneness’ is highlighted, and our differences are minimized,” he said.