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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.


Mark Kostner

This survey is pure BS. Does anyone really think Lawrence is not diverse? Or KCK is really more diverse than Lawrence? Lawrence was my first experience with people from all over the world. I met people from every corner of the planet there in a variety of situations from school to work. But if you really are convinced that Lawrence is not diverse, come to California, and you'll get all the diversity that you can handle!

4 months, 1 week ago


Curtis Russell

Well, yes, I don't find Lawrence particularly diverse, retiring from the Baltimore, Washington DC area. Having worked with the Federal Receiver in the DC Jail system and at the Washington DC JCC, or in central Baltimore, I can remember often walking through three or four distinct neighborhoods, from Ethiopian to black to Vietnamese, just from the parking I could afford to where I worked. Sure, for Kansas there is a diversity of a kind, but of total diversity seen in other places, no.

4 months, 1 week ago


Nathan Anderson

It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that bigger cities are more cosmopolitan than smaller ones. The website breaks down rankings by city size (large, midsize, small) where Lawrence ranks 139 out of 296. Even that is deceiving since many of the other small cities are suburbs within large metros with the top 4 in the DC metro area.

4 months, 1 week ago


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