New report says Lawrence is not a very diverse place; as deportation cases make headlines, a look at our foreign-born population
It is that time of year when a new report comes out that reminds us that Lawrence it is not a very diverse place. It is also the time of year people act surprised by that finding.
After all, I’m sure you are thinking Lawrence is a very diverse place, at least in terms of thought. Take KU basketball for example. When the team loses, some people lose their minds while other people merely freak out.
The latest report from the financial website WalletHub, however, doesn’t quite measure diversity that way. Instead it looks at census data about race, foreign-born population, foreign-language speakers and other such data. The finding: Out of 501 cities, Lawrence was ranked as the 316th most culturally diverse city in the country. The report also provided some sub-rankings. Lawrence ranked No. 329 when you look at race and ethnicity; it ranked No. 296 in the category of different languages spoken; and ranked No. 185 in the area of foreign-born population. So, in other words, we were below the median in all categories except foreign-born population.
What is the most diverse city in Kansas? Look next door. It is Kansas City, Kan. It ranks No. 62 overall. In terms of race and ethnicity, it actually is the 18th most diverse in the country, and it almost cracked the top 100 in terms of language diversity, coming in at 103. Here is a look at the rankings for Kansas communities:
— Kansas City, Kan.: No. 62
— Wichita: No. 188
— Olathe: No. 267
— Topeka: No. 288
— Overland Park: No. 301
— Lawrence: No. 316
— Manhattan: No. 321
— Shawnee: No. 371
— Salina: No. 383
Of course, the rankings are subjective. The authors of the report provide various weightings to certain statistics. However, raw census data does show the lack of racial diversity in the city. In fact, when you look at race and ethnicity, Lawrence looks a lot like some of the Johnson County communities. Here’s a look at the most recent census data — it is the 2016 five-year averages, for those of you scoring along at home — related to race and Hispanic origin. ("Hispanic" is considered an ethnicity, not a race; it's counted separately, which explains why the percentages don't equal 100).
Lawrence: 82 percent white; 4.3 percent black; 5.5 percent Asian; 2.3 percent American Indian; 6.6 percent Hispanic.
Olathe: 85 percent white; 5 percent black; 4.4 percent Asian; 10.9 percent Hispanic
Overland Park: 84.6 percent white; 4.9 percent black; 7.1 percent Asian; 6.4 percent Hispanic
Wichita: 76.2 percent white; 11.2 percent black; 5 percent Asian; 16.4 percent Hispanic
Kansas City, Kan.: 59.4 percent white; 25.1 percent black; 3.9 percent Asian; 29.2 percent Hispanic.
Topeka: 78.7 percent white; 10 percent black; 1.4 percent Asian; 14.1 percent Hispanic
Although Lawrence has some of the lower percentages for black and Hispanic populations, American Indians may make up a larger share of our population than any other metro area in the state. Haskell Indian Nations University is a diversity differentiator for the community.
I also wondered whether Lawrence’s status as a university community made us a bit more of a magnet for foreign-born residents. Not really. The census numbers show we are only slightly above the statewide average. About 7.8 percent of Lawrence’s population is foreign-born compared with about 6.9 percent for the state. When you account for margin of error, that is pretty close.
Again, larger cities and Johnson County communities had higher percentages.
— Kansas City, Kan.: 16.6 percent
— Olathe: 10.6 percent
— Wichita: 10.3 percent
— Topeka: 5.5 percent
But with the recent news about deportations in Lawrence, I did wonder how many actual people are foreign-born residents but not American citizens. The Census Bureau’s latest estimates are that 5,117 people are foreign-born but not U.S. citizens. That’s about 5.5 percent of the population. Statewide, the number is 126,903 or about 4.3 percent of the population.