GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – You may have your own observations, but can you really name the most racially diverse city in North Carolina (or the nation)? What about in the Piedmont Triad?

WalletHub, the financial advice website that culls and analyzes data and spits out reports, ranked Charlotte as the state’s most diverse city and No. 74 among the 501 cities – 10 in North Carolina – that were ranked. The Queen City was ranked No. 26 among large cities (300,000-plus), and it was followed in the overall list by Cary (No. 94) and Durham (No. 85) from the Triangle.

In the Triad, the most diverse city is High Point, which came in at No.117 overall. Winston-Salem (No. 134) and Greensboro (No. 147) also were on the list.

WalletHub cited increasing ethnic and racial diversification, projections about how ethnic dominance could evaporate by 2045 and the continuing debate about immigration for why it looked at each city to study ethnicity and race, language and the birthplace of the populace. (More on that later.)

Source: WalletHub

WalletHub ranked Germantown, Maryland, the state’s third-most-populous city, with about 92,000 residents, as the nation’s most diverse city, largely because it ranked No. 1 for “Ethnoracial Diversity” and No. 3 for “Linguistic Diversity.”

Maryland has two other cities in the top five – Gaithersburg is No. 3 and Silver Spring is No. 4 – and they are bracketed by Jersey City, New Jersey, at No. 2 and New York City at No. 5.

At the bottom of the list were (Nos. 501-496 in reverse order) Parkersburg and Clarksburg in West Virginia; Hialeah, Florida; Barre and Rutland in Vermont; and Laredo, Texas.

WalletHub’s report is extremely deep, breaking down data in several key ways:

  • The birthplace of each state’s population as it was reported in 2019. For instance, 55.96% of North Carolinians were native-born, which is more than South Carolina and Virginia but less than Tennessee. Unsurprisingly about 14.5% of us were born elsewhere in the South, and the next biggest chunk was 10.61% from the Northeast.
  • Brattleboro, Vermont, has the nation’s largest percentage of white residents (94.34%), and Hialeah, which is 95.82% Hispanic, has the lowest (2.8%). Jackson, Mississippi (82.59%) has the largest percentage of Black residents, and Green River, Wyoming – strikingly with 0% – has the lowest.
  • When ranked by size, in addition to Charlotte, Raleigh was No. 36 among large cities (300,000-plus population), and Cary and Durham were Nos. 40-41 among mid-sized (100,000-300,000), where High Point was No. 48.

All of this can be remarkable, expert sociologists told WalletHub. When a city changes, “it can definitely be a challenge to us humans,” said Saskia Sassen, a sociology professor at Columbia University, “but it can also be sort of fun, discovering new ways in which people live or speak or eat.”

Here’s how they did this

birthplace of persons residing in the state as of 2019
Source: WalletHub

WalletHub followed its typical process for creating rankings by collecting and sorting data, weighting that information for import and then creating an indexed score on a 100-point scale. This process used the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index, which is typically used to measure diversity.

The data points and values are quite simple. “Ethnoracial Diversity” includes designated heritage and is weighted as 50 points. “Linguistic Diversity” (33.3 points) is about languages spoken, and “Birthplace” Diversity (16.67 points) is about where the population was born.

That led to a score of 73.28 for Germantown and 72.7 for Jersey City. New York is at 69.46. Charlotte scored 59.48, and High Point is at 54.78 (with a rank of 67 for Ethnoracial Diversity).

Oakland, California, is No. 2 for Ethnoracial Diversity, and San Jose, California, is No. 1 for Linguistic Diversity (over Jersey City). Jackson and Arlington, Virginia, were 1-2 for Birthplace Diversity (meaning mostly home-grown residents).

How NC cities ranked

USA, North Carolina, Charlotte, elevated view of the city skyline from Route 74, dawn.

Based on census data through 2022, about 44.7% of Charlotte’s 878,709 residents are counted as “white alone.” The percentage of the Black population is 35.2%, and Hispanic/Latino represents 14.9%. Raleigh, by comparison, reported 56.1%/28.6%/11.3% across that spectrum for 467,592 residents.

As tops in the Triad, High Point has 114,086 residents, with 49.5% white, 34.5% Black and 10% Hispanic/Latino.

To cut across the state, here’s how each city ranked overall, its score and its ranking by category.

Overall rank CityScoreEthnoracial rankLinguistic rankBirthplace rank
74 Charlotte59.483814264
94 Cary56.641701178
95 Durham56.4955186101
112 Fayetteville54.95323853
117 High Point54.7867182210
129 Raleigh53.98112189106
134 Winston-Salem53.8469197266
147 Greensboro52.6586215199
288 Greenville41.57181437376
317 Wilmington39.34305378170

Change is coming

ethno racial diversity evolution over time in the case of the largest cities from each state1
Source: WalletHub
Tony N. Brown (WALLETHUB)
Michael J. White (WALLETHUB)
Adia Harvey Wingfield (WALLETHUB)

The ethnic composition of some areas is changing rapidly, as WalletHub’s analysis found, and how that is received can be based on the race that is affected most, said Adia Harvey Wingfield, a sociology professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

“We know that while most residents will say they support diversity,” Wingfield told WalletHub, “at the neighborhood level, when demographics change so that Black families become about 10% of the population, white residents often begin moving out. Additionally, researchers have found that many white residents block or discourage programs designed to establish more racial diversity, often driven by stereotypes and erroneous beliefs about the relationships between racial diversity and property values. So rapid change, especially when that means more Black residents, can lead to white residents’ discomfort and relocation.”

Said Michael J. White, a sociology professor at Brown University: One must be careful, however, not to project broad city-wide or region-wide shifts into some universal experience. Cities have been undergoing such changes for decades, and most shifts play out at a smaller geographic scale. How those changes are understood and treated by policy-makers becomes an important part of what this means for residents.”

Tony N. Brown, a sociology professor at Rice, said those changes could influence the national economy. “The increasingly diverse demographic makeup of young workers will challenge employers to rethink the organization of the workplace and to increase their commitment to DEI [diversity/equity/inclusiveness] efforts,” Brown said. “I suspect we will see increased productivity as individuals from previously marginalized groups find workplaces to be more accepting of their differences.

“I also suspect workplaces will become spaces where questions about differences and similarities will get asked and answered. Workplaces will become learning contexts.”