Like the nation's population, the results were mixed. Some things weren't surprising at all, like the fairly homogeneous swaths of the Northeast and the Midwest. Vermont looks to be the least diverse state in the nation. The least diverse county, according to Olson's calculations, is in West Virginia, followed by two counties in Kentucky and ones in Nebraska and South Dakota.
What may be more surprising is where the high-diversity pockets are: in major cities, yes, but also in Alaska, apparently. Two counties there rate higher on ethnic entropy than Queens County, New York.
For what it's worth, when asked why he thought Alaska took the top spots, Olson suggested: "The Aleutian Islands have a fairly small population (~5000 people) and are home to several fishing ports in Alaska," he said. "Deadliest Catch comes to mind... perhaps such a dangerous job draws in people from all backgrounds to come work and live there?"
Al Jazeera America reported in January that the aptly-named town of Unalaska, Alaska, part of the Aleutians West Census Area, has in fact seen an influx of "young, diverse" inhabitants—as it turns from a fishing community into a hub for oil drilling.
The 5 most diverse counties in the U.S., according to Olson's calculations, are:
- Aleutians West Census Area, Alaska (31.4% white/non-Latino, 5.7% African American, 15.1% Native American, 28.3% Asian American, 13.1% Latino, and 6.4% other)
- Aleutians East Borough, Alaska (13.5% white/non-Latino), 6.7% African American, 27.7% Native American, 35.4% Asian American, 12.3% Latino, and 4.4% other)
- Queens County, New York (27.6% white/non-Latino, 17.7% African American, 0.3% Native American, 22.8% Asian American, 27.5% Latino, and 4% other)
- Alameda County, California (34.1% white/non-Latino, 12.2% African American, 0.3% Native American, 25.9% Asian American, 22.5% Latino, and 5.1% other)
- Solano County, California (40.8% white/non-Latino, 14.2% African American, 0.5% Native American, 14.3% Asian American, 24% Latino, and 6.2% other)
And the 5 least diverse:
- Tucker County, West Virginia (100% white/non-Latino)
- Robertson County, Kentucky (100% white/non-Latino)
- Hooker County, Nebraska (100% white/non-Latino)
- Hand County, South Dakota (99% white/non-Latino and 1% Latino)
- Owsley County, Kentucky (98% white/non-Latino and 2% Latino)
As to what surprised Olson the most? "As a Michigander," he writes, "I’m the most surprised to see how diverse the Upper Peninsula is. I thought only crazy white people lived up that far in Michigan."