Assessing Local “Diversity”: A Nationally Representative Analysis

Neeraj Rajasekar, Evan Stewart, Joseph Gerteis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The meanings and definition of “diversity” can change across different applications and contexts, but many such meanings have implications for racial difference and racial ideology in the United States. We provide a nationally representative analysis of how everyday Americans assess “diversity” in their own communities. We test how county-level racial, religious, economic, and political heterogeneity predict the view that one lives in a highly diverse locale; we also test how individual-level factors predict such a view. Among the four indicators of local difference, racial difference is most strongly and consistently associated with Americans’ assessments of local diversity. Individual-level factors do not weaken this relationship; rather, local context and individual-level factors conjointly predict assessments of local diversity. Despite the flexible, hyperinclusive nature of diversity discourse, local racial difference is salient in Americans’ assessments of “diversity” in their communities, and this pattern is not simply a product of individual-level factors. Our findings illustrate another dimension of the flexible-yet-racialized nature of diversity discourse in the United States. We also show that Americans are particularly aware of racial difference in their locale, which has implications for social and ideological responses to changing communities and a changing nation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-158
Number of pages20
JournalSocial Currents
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 16 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The authors appreciate support for data collection and research assistance from the National Science Foundation (Grant Numbers 1258926 and 1258933) and the Edelstein Family Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Southern Sociological Society 2021.


  • community and urban sociology
  • culture
  • racial and ethnic minorities


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