Lily white: A more populous region may hinge on diversity

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After crunching 2010 census data, the Brookings Institution has issued a report about the state of racial diversity in America. Surprisingly, the numbers for the 100 largest metropolitan areas show Pittsburgh to be the second-whitest region in the nation.

That's based on the finding that 87 percent of the population in the region comprising Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties is not black, Hispanic or Asian. The Scranton-Wilkes Barre metro across the state has the distinction of being the nation's least diverse, with a white population of 89 percent.

As Post-Gazette staff writer Gary Rotstein reported Monday, Pittsburgh is "whiter even than the Amish country around Lancaster, the Mormon population center of Salt Lake City, Midwest agrarian capitals such as Des Moines, Iowa, and far more isolated places like Boise, Idaho."

How does a region built on immigration, albeit from previous centuries, come to have in 2011 such a small share of people of color?

Cultural diversity brings intrinsic civic and social value that enhances a community. We've seen it in vibrant neighborhoods like Squirrel Hill, Oakland and South Side. Yet the region has to be more eager at rolling out the welcome mat and more receptive to those who are different.

Brookings said that non-whites and Hispanics accounted for 98 percent of the total population growth in the 100 largest metro areas. That means, given current trends, the Pittsburgh region will have to seek more non-whites if it wants to rebound from decades of population decline.

All forecasts show that greater diversity is the demographic future of the nation. The sooner the Pittsburgh metro catches up with the rest of the country, the better.



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