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Seattle is shedding diversity; the state's minority populations grow

While larger trends have made the city become whiter, other parts of the central Puget Sound region have become genuinely diverse. Seattle now ranks 40th statewide in diversity.

Minority populations in the central Puget Sound area. Click on the map for a larger view. Color code in this order: a. 2 to 20% minority; b. 20 to 28%; c. 28 to 35%; d. 35 to 50%; e. 50 to 75%; 75 to 94%.

Minority populations in the central Puget Sound area. Click on the map for a larger view. Color code in this order: a. 2 to 20% minority; b. 20 to 28%; c. 28 to 35%; d. 35 to 50%; e. 50 to 75%; 75 to 94%. Dick Morrill

The rate of change in minority populations in the central Puget Sound region based on U.S. Census data for 2000 and 2010. Click for a larger view. Color code is in this order: a. -17% to -5%; b. -5% to 0; c. 0 to +5%; d. +5 to 10%; e. +10 to 20%; f. +20 to 43%.

The rate of change in minority populations in the central Puget Sound region based on U.S. Census data for 2000 and 2010. Click for a larger view. Color code is in this order: a. -17% to -5%; b. -5% to 0; c. 0 to +5%; d. +5 to 10%; e. +10 to 20%; f. +20 to 43%. Dick Morrill

As I have noted several times in recent years, the city of Seattle is an exceptional place. The 2010 census figures on race, ethnicity, and age confirm this reputation. The main story from the census findings is the continued gentrification of Seattle, with displacement of minorities and the less affluent out of the center of the city, especially to south King County and Pierce County. The city core is becoming whiter, while the edges and suburbs, north and east as well as south, are becoming far more diverse.

A second part of the story is the overall increase in the minority population, both statewide and in central Puget Sound. I present two maps, first the distribution of all minorities (the remainder, of course, is the white non-Latino population). The second map, change in the share of all minorities (or of whites, looking at it from that point of view) is a remarkable summary of the new face of the metropolis.

The black share of the population, which did grow substantially in the decade, shows the main concentration to be from the very south end of Seattle, south to Tukwila, a smaller area in south Tacoma, with belts over 10 percent black covering much of central and south Seattle, south King County and much of Tacoma and Lakewood. Unlike the 1960s through 1980s, there is no tract over half black. Shares in most of the region remain well below 5 percent, with rural small town areas below 1 percent.

The Asian population is much larger than the black total, and higher shares are far more widespread. Unlike the concentration that existed on south Seattle’s Beacon Hill until around 1980, the 2010 map shows equally high shares in many parts of the Eastside, especially Bellevue, Redmond, and Sammamish, and smaller areas in south King county and south Everett. The newer areas are also areas of high foreign-born populations and immigration of professionals from Asia.

The Latino shares are still lower here when compared to parts of Eastern Washington. The highest shares are in south King County and Pierce County, rather similar to the pattern for the black population, but with a more westerly orientation in south Seattle and more of a presence in Renton.

The map of all minorities, colored to emphasize the minority concentrations, attests to the diversification of the region, with up to half the urban footprint showing shares over 35 percent, and with much of south King County and south Tacoma, and parts of Bellevue-Redmond over 50 percent, utterly unlike the story 20 years earlier. As remarkable, though, is the low share in professional, affluent, highly educated parts of Seattle. More expected are the very low shares over almost all far-suburban, exurban, and rural areas.

Change in black-population shares reveals the continuing exodus/displacement from Seattle, with the significant growth in south King County, including Tukwila, Sea-Tac, and Kent, and in Pierce County. Asians too experienced tremendous growth in the suburbs, especially in eastern King County and suburban Snohomish County. Particularly favored areas were Covington, Redmond, Sammamish, Bellevue, and Bothell, north into Snohomish.

Change in the Latino population, like that of the black population, is greatest in south King county, into south Tacoma, but also in the Highway 99 corridor in Snohomish County. Growth in both the black and Latino populations is clearly in less-affluent housing markets than growth of the Asian population.

The map of minority population change, summarizes the racial and ethnic transformation of the metropolis, and highlights the exceptionalism of the city of Seattle. Most observers would probably be drawn to the dramatic and obvious diversification of suburbia, in all directions, north, east and south of Seattle.

But as a 55-year resident of Seattle, the most dramatic feature is that green and blue part of central and south Seattle that is the very definition of the historic Central Area and its extension into Rainier Valley. Much of Seattle became whiter or only slightly more diverse, while most of the region became more ethnically and racially complex, even many exurban and rural areas. The reasons for this redistribution are complex and beyond the scope of this review of the census, but we know that the popularity of living in Seattle on the part of younger, less familial, and more professional households, together with shifts in the housing stock away from family housing, was critical.


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Comments:

Posted Fri, Apr 29, 8:28 a.m. Inappropriate

Fascinating stuff, unfortunately topped by a sensationalist headline.

mhays

Posted Fri, Apr 29, 10:36 a.m. Inappropriate

I'd never heard of this definition of diversity before:

"Diversity is usually measured as the degree to which the shares of major racial and ethnic groups are equal. So maximum diversity for six groups (blacks, Native Americans, Asians, Latinos, whites, and those of two or more races) would be .167, if each group were one-sixth. An area 100 percent of one race would have zero diversity or a index of 1."

Is an index of .167 considered a goal, or just a benchmark? Of course, neither the state nor the country has all six groups equally distributed. One usually hears of proporionality to groups' percentage of the population, not of equal percentages.

At any rate, considering how white the state is, even if Seattle has slipped to 40th, it's still more diverse than a lot of places. Also, it's competing against some small places, such as Lake Stickney, Lakeland, and DuPont. It'd be interesting to see figures for some Seattle neighborhoods or ZIP Codes.

Posted Sat, Apr 30, 11:38 a.m. Inappropriate

Seattle is simply too expensive to live in unless you are very affluent or very poor at which case you would have a lot of your living expenses subsidized. My partner and I own a small home and combined we make 65K per year. We are examining whether its still worth it to live in Seattle since the cultural amenities and urban life do not outweigh the cost of living here.

Posted Sun, May 1, 9:04 a.m. Inappropriate

Diverse means minority, black, and/or non-white. If a city is 90% white, it is not diverse. If a city is 90% black, is it really diverse? Bizarre logic here.

animalal

Posted Sun, May 1, 2:50 p.m. Inappropriate

Oh, the unbearable whiteness of being in Seattle...

Mud Baby

Posted Sun, May 1, 8:13 p.m. Inappropriate

Well, animalal, according to the definition of diversity used in the article, a city that is 90% black is just as diverse as a city that is 90% white, i.e., not very diverse.

Posted Mon, May 2, 11:42 a.m. Inappropriate

In a recent Seattle Times article, http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2014859409_censusrace24m.html, "An African-American blues performer, Anita White often finds herself the only minority at her performances around Seattle." One has to ask, how does she know she's the only minority? It would seem that her sole criterion for diversity is skin color, and from the context of the article, the only "diversity" she recognizes is African-American. On a side note, if she wants African Americans at her performances, she might try a switch to hip-hop. Much of the reaction to the census finding cited in your article is around diversity defined as African American. We have lots of Asians, Latinos, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, and quite a few Blacks from foreign countries. For example, the Ethiopians staff all the parking garages in Seattle, and the Somalis appear to own the cab and limo driving jobs. We don't have to beat ourselves up because we don't have a large population of descendents of African slaves.

gadfly

Posted Thu, May 5, 12:17 p.m. Inappropriate

The index of diversity comes from biology, and yes 90% Black is just as non diverse as 90% white.

I would note that this ethnic sense of diversity is only that. On a wider cultural level there could be many other definitions, e.g, age, houssehold, income, etc etc.! So it could be that central Seattle is becoming less racially diverse, but more diverse in other ways.

DMorrill

Posted Sat, Jul 19, 11:49 a.m. Inappropriate

There is still a clear pattern of at least ad hoc segregation between north and south Seattle. Granted that gentrification, in both the CD and northern Beacon Hill, as well as in Columbia City, has pushed the color line further south.

I suppose one could say that the richer, more white, portion of the population is increasingly being centrifugally pulled into the city core, while the poorer, more non-white, portion of the population is increasingly being centripetally pushed away from the city core.

A change, however, is that non-rich white renters are also now increasingly being priced out of "desirable" neighborhoods.

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