Houston Region Surpasses NYC As Most Diverse

Houston has surpassed New York City as the most diverse region in the nation. Researchers at Rice University say the Houston Metro area grew substantially in diversity over the past 20 years — with much of that growth in Missouri City and Pearland.

A look at racial and ethnic demographics from the 1990, 2000 and 2010 census data shows leaps and bounds of growth.

Prof. Michael Emerson at the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University led the study. He says in the past decade, Houston grew more than any other metro area — with 1.2 million people moving to the region.

“If you live in Houston for just a little while, you recognize that it feels quite diverse. So we actually wanted to know over the last 20 years what has happened, and then compare what Houston is today to what it used to be, but also to other large metropolitan areas.”

The region has grown so much in diversity that there is no longer a racial majority. Instead, every ethnic group is a minority.

The Latino population is the fastest growing in the region, doubling from 20 percent in 1990 to 40 percent in the 2010 census.

The Anglo and Asian populations have also grown, while the African-American population has remained relatively flat.

But Emerson says there has been only a slight decline in segregation, especially in the City of Houston proper.

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“Part of the issue is that Houston has very established neighborhoods. So people assume that certain neighborhoods are only for one group or another, so they don’t even consider typically moving to those neighborhoods.”

Outside Houston city limits, Emerson says there is less segregation, especially in Missouri City and Pearland which are the most diverse cities in the nation.


Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson


Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. Laurie has covered a wide variety of topics for HPM, including the crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia, Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, and numerous elections. She is a frequent contributor to NPR and has been...

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