Bucking the Trend: Is Ethnoracial Diversity Declining
in American Communities?
Barrett A. Lee
Lauren A. Hughes
Received: 16 July 2013 / Accepted: 6 August 2014 / Published online: 12 September 2014
Ó Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014
Abstract Although increasing diversity at the national scale is a well-documented
trend, substantial variation in patterns of ethnoracial change occurs across American
communities. Our research considers one theoretically implied path: that some
communities are ‘bucking the trend,’ becoming more homogeneous over time.
Using 1980 through 2010 decennial census data, we calculate panethnic (ﬁve-group)
entropy index scores to measure the magnitude of diversity for nearly 11,000
census-deﬁned places. Our results indicate that while certain places reach their
diversity peak in 1980 or 1990, they are few in number. Moreover, they experience
a variety of post-peak trajectories other than monotonic diversity decline.
Decreasing diversity is concentrated in the South and West, among places with
higher levels of diversity and larger proportions of Hispanic or black residents at the
beginning of the study period. These places exhibit complex shifts in racial–ethnic
structure, but Hispanic succession predominates.
Keywords Race Á Ethnicity Á Diversity Á Census places Á Entropy index
A major transformation is underway in the racial and ethnic composition of the
United States. Since 1980, Hispanics have more than doubled their share of the
national population and Asians have tripled theirs. Immigration stands out as a key
driver of minority growth, but signiﬁcant roles are also played by the higher fertility
and youthful age structures of some groups, by intermarriage and the resulting
multiethnic offspring, and by shifts in racial–ethnic identity (Hirschman 2005;
Lichter 2013). The effect of these demographic processes has been to shrink the size
of the white slice of the population pie while expanding the slice of every other
B. A. Lee (&) Á L. A. Hughes
Department of Sociology and Population Research Institute, The Pennsylvania State University,
University Park, PA 16802, USA
Popul Res Policy Rev (2015) 34:113–139