The state is now the most racially diverse on the East Coast, according to census data. But segregation and inequality complicate the picture.
By Elliott Davis Jr.
Nov. 8, 2021, at 7:30 a.m
A woman walks past a mural in the Charles Village neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland, on Oct. 14, 2020.(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
When one considers the most racially and ethnically diverse states in the U.S., states such as California, Hawaii and Texas likely come to mind. The data backs this up: All three rank in the top 10 for the U.S. Census Bureau's diversity metric, according to 2020 census data released in August.
But there's another state that might surprise you: Maryland. Not only does the state rank No. 4 overall for diversity, but it saw the biggest increase – a bump of nearly seven percentage points from 2010 to 2020 – among the top 10, according to data provided by the bureau. It's also now the most diverse state on the East Coast.
The data from the decennial census shows that Maryland is a very ethnically and racially diverse state – and has become much more so in the past decade. But analysts and demographers say that issues there persist when it comes to inclusivity and equality, and warn against assigning too much weight to data whose methodology has been adjusted over time.
"This is still a very highly segregated state," says Janelle Wong, a professor of American Studies and Asian American Studies at the University of Maryland. "I think that's worth us all paying attention to."
The bureau's Diversity Index measures the probability – between 0 and 1, translated as a percentage – that two people chosen randomly will be from different races and ethnicities. Numbers close to 100% mean that nearly everyone in a population has different racial and ethnic characteristics.
The nation as a whole became much more diverse between 2010 and 2020, rising from about 55% to 61%, according to visualized census data. Maryland experienced similarly large growth in that timespan, going from about 60% to over 67%.
Maryland's big diversity increase was driven by growth among its smaller racial or ethnic groups, according to Eric Jensen, the bureau's senior technical expert for demographic analysis. For example, Maryland's multiracial, non-Hispanic population doubled (2.2% to 4.4%) from 2010 to 2020. Its Asian alone, non-Hispanic population also saw a moderate increase, from 5.5% to 6.8%.
Also crucial to the changing makeup of the state's diversity, the white population in Maryland shrunk below 50% in 2020 after it accounted for nearly 55% of the state's population in 2010. The Black or African American population – the second-largest group in the state by a wide margin – stayed about the same (29.1%) between 2010 and 2020.
The state's Hispanic or Latino population – the third-largest share – rose nearly four percentage points in a decade's span, from 8.2% to 11.8%.