Racial/Ethnic Diversity

Index (0-100) reflecting how evenly distributed the population is across the racial/ethnic groups living in this area

American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau. Calculated by the Dashboard Team using data from 2021, 5 year estimate.
Dashboard-City Average

Why do we measure racial/ethnic diversity?

The level of racial/ethnic diversity across a city can provide important context for understanding health differences among groups and for creating solutions that advance health equity. The Dashboard measures diversity in terms of the mix of racial/ethnic groups within an area. For example: a more diverse area on the Dashboard would have an equal mix of all racial/ethnic populations, while a less diverse area would be predominantly one race/ethnicity.

Community diversity can lead to improved health outcomes, although research is limited and effects are experienced differently across racial/ethnic groups (i.e., Asian, Black, Hispanic, and White).1,2 Some limited evidence links increased racial/ethnic diversity within a census tract with a decreased likelihood across groups of developing conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.3 Some research demonstrates that diverse communities promote general trust across ethnic groups, but others note the opposite effect.4,5 The ethnic density hypothesis proposes that people are healthier when they live in areas with higher concentrations of their own racial/ethnic group, such as in a more equally diverse space or a space dominated by their own group.6,7 This effect has been observed more prevalently among Black and Hispanic people, but most studies report no associations and more research is needed.8

Regardless of local demographic data, the perception of diversity may interact with the perception of segregation so that both contribute greatly to feelings of trust or distrust among groups.9 Due to varied racial/ethnic distributions and levels of social cohesion within communities, this metric is not definitive in its interpretation but can be used as a starting point to help understand patterns of health and needed interventions. Users should apply local context to understand how diversity may affect health and inform targeted health strategies.

How do we measure racial/ethnic diversity?

Racial/ethnic diversity (also known as the entropy score) represents how evenly distributed the area’s population is across the racial/ethnic groups (census tract or city), on a scale of 0 to 100.10  A value of 0 indicates that all residents of the area belong to a single racial/ethnic category (i.e., less diversity); a value of 100 indicates that all pre-specified racial/ethnic groups comprise an equal proportion of the population (i.e., more diversity).

This measure does not take the geographic distribution of racial/ethnic groups into account. Therefore, the Dashboard measures both diversity and segregation. A particular city could be quite diverse, populated by many racial/ethnic groups, but members of these groups could be segregated into different neighborhoods. Alternatively, a city can be without significant residential segregation, but also have low diversity. Thus, it is important to consider both measures.

For those seeking to understand the distinction between how we measure diversity and segregation further, check out our blog for more information!

NOTE: Within our Dashboard metrics, we categorize race/ethnicity into the following five categories: Asian (Asian and Pacific Islander); Black/African American; Other (American Indian and Alaska Native, two or more races, and some other race); Hispanic; and non-Hispanic White. This is due to data availability and calculation constraints. Consult our Technical Documentation to learn more.

Strengths and Limitations

Strengths of Metric

Limitations of Metric

• The entropy score used to calculate diversity is a local measure, allowing for analysis at smaller geographical levels, such as cities and census tracts. It also incorporates multiple racial/ethnic groups, as opposed to a binary measure.

• This metric is objective in that it is data driven and not influenced by local perceptions.

• Racial/ethnic diversity does not identify which racial/ethnic groups are the minority or majority.

• The metric is limited to mutually exclusive subgroups, due to how it is calculated. This means that not all races and ethnicities are distinctly reflected within the metric, as they are instead grouped into the category  “other.” This obscures some nuances of a community’s racial/ethnic composition.

• There are no inherently good or bad values of diversity: The local context, along with other contributing data on neighborhoods and cities, must be taken into account when interpreting these estimates.


Diversity (or entropy) was quantified using Iceland’s formulas for entropy scores, accounting for the proportion of each racial/ethnic population within the total population of a geography.10 Racial/Ethnic Diversity is presented on the Dashboard as this entropy score divided by the maximum possible entropy score of the area, then multiplied by 100. This results in a value from 0 to 100 that represents how much of the greatest possible diversity is exhibited in a given area.

For more information on the calculation, please refer to Iceland’s publication10 and the City Health Dashboard Technical Document.

Data Source

Estimates for these metrics are from American Community Survey 5-year estimate data using the DP05 table. Multi-year data are available for these metrics. For more information, please refer to Using Multi-Year Data: Tips and Cautions


  1. Tach, L. M. (2014). Diversity, Inequality, and Microsegregation: Dynamics of Inclusion and Exclusion in a Racially and Economically Diverse Community. Cityscape, 16(3), 13–46. http://www.jstor.org/stable/26326904

  2. Berezin J. Violent Injury and Neighborhood Racial/Ethnic Diversity in Oakland, California. J Urban Health. 2017;94(6)doi:10.1007/s11524-017-0202-x

  3. Li K. Neighborhood Racial Diversity and Metabolic Syndrome: 2003–2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. J Immigr Minor Health. 2019;21(1):151-160. doi:10.1007/s10903-018-0728-3

  4. Schmid K. Neighborhood Ethnic Diversity and Trust: The Role of Intergroup Contact and Perceived Threat. Psychological Science. 2014;25(3)doi:https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797613508956

  5. Putnam RD. E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century The 2006 Johan Skytte Prize Lecture. Scandinavian Political Studies. 2007;30(2):137-174. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9477.2007.00176.x

  6. Shaw RJ. Impact of ethnic density on adult mental disorders: narrative review. The British Journal of Psychiatry. 2012;201(1):11-9. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.110.083675

  7. Termorshuizen F. Neighborhood ethnic density and suicide risk among different migrant groups in the four big cities in the Netherlands. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatry Epidemiology. 2015;50(6):951-62. doi:10.1007/s00127-014-0993-y

  8. Becares f. Ethnic Density Effects on Physical Morbidity, Mortality, and Health Behaviors: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Am J Public Health. 2012;102(12):33-66. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2012.300832

  9. Assche JV. Trust is in the eye of the beholder: How perceptions of local diversity and segregation shape social cohesion. Frontiers in Psychology. 2022; doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2022.1036646

  10. Iceland J. The multigroup entropy index (also known as Theil’s H or the Information Theory Index). US Census Bureau. Accessed July 27, 2023, https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/demo/about/housing-patterns/multigroup_entropy.pdf

Last updated: July 27, 2023