The 2020 census shows us that Seattle has become a more racially diverse place over the past decade — but how diverse is your neighborhood?
We’ve seen in many cities that the population overall is very diverse, but when you get down to the neighborhood level, it can actually be quite segregated.
I used the newly released race and ethnicity data from the 2020 census to calculate what’s known as a “diversity index” for each Seattle census tract.
The index score measures how likely it is that two people who live in the same place, chosen at random, would be of different races. The higher the score, the more diverse the place is. A low score means most residents are of the same race.
The results show a tremendous variance in racial diversity across city census tracts, and a couple of patterns emerge.
For one, the Seattle neighborhoods with the highest diversity-index scores still tend to be most heavily concentrated in the South End, even though diversity has increased in other areas of the city (such as downtown Seattle and pockets of North and West Seattle). South Seattle is still the only section of the city where there is no majority racial group.
On the other hand, if you live in one of the more affluent areas of Seattle — and one that’s zoned primarily for single-family homes — your neighborhood probably has a lower diversity-index score. It’s likely to be a majority-white area.
Seattle itself remained a majority-white city in 2020, with non-Hispanic white people making up 59.5% of the city’s total population.
There are now, as of the 2020 census, 177 tracts in the city of Seattle. In 139 of these, a single racial group makes up more than 50% of the population. Most of these tracts (134 of them) have a white majority, but there are five with an Asian majority.
The remaining 38 census tracts do not have a single racial group making up the majority of the residents. These 38 tracts are among the most highly diverse, and typically have a diversity index score of 65 or higher. (Seattle’s citywide diversity-index score is 60.1.)
The single most diverse neighborhood in Seattle is Dunlap, which is between Seward Park and Rainier Beach, with a diversity index of 76.7. Asian people make up the largest racial group here, at 29%, followed by Black people (28%), white people (22%) and Hispanic people (14%).
Two other census tracts in South Seattle tied for having the second-highest levels of racial diversity. They are the northern section of Columbia City, and the part of North Beacon Hill close to Jefferson Park (plus the Rainier Vista development, which is split between these two tracts). Both had index scores of 75.7.
Some of the most diverse census tracts in Seattle are not in the South End, including tracts in Judkins Park in Central Seattle, the Olympic Hills section of Lake City in North Seattle, and South Park in West Seattle.
It’s worth noting that while census tracts are fairly small areas, especially in a densely populated place like Seattle, there can still exist segregation within them. That may be particularly true of tracts that stretch from wealthy waterfront blocks to more modest areas a little farther inland.
Seattle’s least diverse neighborhood is Madison Park, an affluent section of Central Seattle that abuts Lake Washington. It includes Broadmoor, an exclusive gated community. This area has an index score of 30.9, and 81% of the residents are white. The second largest group is multiracial people, at 7%, followed by Asian people, at 5%.
But even Madison Park is a lot more racially diverse than it was just 10 years ago. Using data from the 2010 census, I calculated the neighborhood’s diversity-index score at just 19.2 at that time. Madison Park was 90% white in 2010.
The second least diverse neighborhood is North Beach/Blue Ridge, which is south of Carkeek Park, with a diversity index of 32.6, and the area just south of that, in North Ballard, that includes Golden Garden Park, with an index of 33.5.
Twenty census tracts in Seattle have a diversity-index score of less than 40.
To calculate the index, I used the Census Bureau’s racial categories (white, Black, Asian, Native American/Alaska Native, Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian, multiracial, and some other race) plus Hispanic ethnicity. I treated Hispanic as a racial category, in line with American cultural perceptions (the Census Bureau, though, considers Hispanic as an ethnicity distinct from racial identity).
It should also be noted that these racial/ethnic categories are very broad, encompassing people of many different backgrounds. Within each of these categories there exists a tremendous amount of cultural diversity.