by Matt Coker
Those number crunchers at the online consumer site WalletHub.com are really into diversity lately, ranking cities by the most and least economic, ethno-racial and linguistic diversity. Orange County cities make both lists.
Here’s how WalletHub introduces the 2015 Cities with the Most & Least Economic Class Diversity:
No demographic division of Americans is easier to calculate than economic class: Today, you’re either one of the wealthiest 1 percent or the bottom 99. That’s the Economic Policy Institute’s less-than-delicate way of announcing that the rich have gotten richer and the poor even poorer since the Great Recession. How much richer? Between 2009 and 2012, the top 1 percent captured 95 percent of all post-recession income growth.
And while the resulting wealth gap has regressed America to 1920s conditions, the fact that concentrations of affluence or poverty aren’t uniform across the U.S. can actually be a good thing. In an ideal America, no one in any city would live below the poverty line. But the closest we can get to a healthy city is one with a balanced diversity of residents from all socioeconomic backgrounds who can happily coexist.
Out of 350 American cities, the one with the most economic class diversity–a good thing–is Carrollton, Texas, which is followed at No. 2 by our own Orange. Costa Mesa is No. 4.
Other Orange County cities in the top 50 are Anaheim (14), Fullerton (15), Huntington Beach (31) and Garden Grove (48). Long Beach is No. 64, Santa Ana is No. 86 and Los Angeles is No. 100. Pulling up the bottom at No. 350 is Michael Moore’s hometown, Flint, Michigan.
WalletHub’s 2015 Cities with the Most & Least Ethno-Racial & Linguistic Diversity, which has Jersey City, New Jersey, the most diverse in the land, includes no Orange County cities in the top 10. But within the top 30 are Garden Grove (16), Long Beach (22) and Westminster (29).
The site says “it’s ever more imperative to close the racial gaps across U.S. cities to ensure economic prosperity. Experts have proposed many ways to achieve this goal such as promoting minority-owned firms as well as narrowing the disparities in educational attainment and income.”
Other rankings include Irvine at No. 46, Anaheim tying Dallas, Texas, at No. 51, Orange at No. 71 and Costa Mesa at No. 101.
Westminster was ranked as having the highest percentage of residents in the country speaking Asian and Pacific Islander languages (44.44 percent). Jackson, Mississippi, has the lowest percentage of folks speaking those languages at 0.19 percent.
Speaking of different languages, one in nine eligible California voters speak only limited English, and many don’t know what help and services are available to them, according to a recent report released by The Greenlining Institute, a Berkeley-based public policy, research and advocacy group.
Among the key findings in “Community Voices: Improving Access to Voting for California’s Limited-English Communities:”
* Some voters who want materials in other languages don’t receive them and don’t know how to obtain them. Since 2008, voter registration forms have asked the voter’s preferred language for election materials, but this mechanism clearly fails to reach a great many limited English speaking voters.
* Asian and Latino voter turnout rates run between 11 and 15 percentage points lower than those of white and black voters.
* Some limited-English speakers are uncomfortable asking for language assistance from election workers, who need to proactively let these voters know help is available.
* Online voter registration has failed to reach limited-English voters. From April to November of 2014, just 1.4 percent of online registrations were in a language other than English.
* Limited-English communities generally have less access to information about candidates and ballot issues. Few campaign ads or mailers are translated, so those voters miss much of the debate. Poll workers said that many limited-English voters feel they have insufficient information, which may further suppress turnout.
* Translated materials such as the voter guide were perceived as long and confusing. Participants urged use of less legal jargon and plainer language.
* Much more publicity and outreach is needed to ensure that voters know what language assistance is available. Officials should build partnerships with community-based groups, who are best situated to address social or cultural barriers such as stigma regarding language assistance.
“California hasn’t done enough to reach the 2.6 million eligible voters who are limited-English proficient, and that may well help explain lower turnout rates among Asians and Latinos,” says report co-author Zainab Badi, Greenlining Institute Claiming Our Democracy Fellow. “For example, online voter registration has almost completely failed to reach these voters, and we simply have to do better.”