Highlighting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity: Tucson's Demographic Mix

Jennifer Pullen, Senior Research Economist

Pinpoint Shadow  Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity in Tucson, Arizona MSA

During the past 39 years, Tucson’s residents have become much more diverse. As this trend continues, it is important to understand the changes taking place and identify the challenges that may exist. Diversity makes our lives richer. When inclusion matters and diverse groups are brought to the table it helps to drive new ideas and creativity. According to the National Equity Atlas, companies with more diverse workforces are more competitive, have a greater market share, higher revenues, and more customers.

The National Equity Atlas explores a wide range of key measures that track how communities are doing on inclusive prosperity. They define an equitable community as one where all residents, regardless of race, nativity, gender, or zip code, are fully able to participate in the community’s economic vitality, contribute to its readiness for the future, and connect to its assets and resources. These measures allow us to explore many aspects of a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community.

This article will focus on the demographic aspect of diversity in the Tucson Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). Subsequent articles will explore the topics of economic equity and connectedness within our region.

According to data from the 2020 Census, the U.S. is more racially and ethnically diverse than it was a decade ago. The Census Bureau created a diversity index in 2020 that measures the probability that two people chosen at random will be from different race and ethnicity groups. Of the western states measured on the MAP, Arizona had the fifth highest diversity index at 61.5%. This means there is a 61.5% chance that two people chosen at random will be from different racial and ethnic groups. The U.S. has a diversity index of 61.1% (Figure 1). Among the western states, California had the highest at 69.7%, while Idaho had the lowest at 35.9%.

Figure 1: Diversity Index for States (2020)

The increase in diversity over the past decade can be attributed to a decline in the country’s white population, while other racial and ethnic groups are generating overall positive growth. Nationally, the U.S. grew by nearly 20 million people during the past decade, representing a growth rate of 6.3%. The white population declined slightly, while those identifying as two or more races grew the most at 30.0%. The Asian American, Latino or Hispanic, Black, and Native American populations grew at rates of 29.0%, 20.0%, 8.5%, and 7.6%, respectively. To learn more about the racial and ethnic changes in the U.S. during the past decade, view the census articles linked above or a short article published by Brookings summarizing the data. 

Our world is a diverse place. A landmark study on “Fractionalization” published by a Harvard University researcher analyzed how ethnic diverse 190 counties were. The study measured 650 distinct ethnic groups. They measured diversity or “fractionalization” of each country. They wanted to know if you asked two people at random within a particular county what their ethnicity was, what the odds were that they would be different. The United States fell in the middle of the distribution with an ethnic diversity index value of 0.4901. The study also examined linguistic and religious diversity. The United States had one of the highest religious diversity index values of 0.8241 when compared to 190 other countries.

The National Equity Atlas reports a Diversity Score that measures the racial and ethnic diversity of a region based on six major groups (White, Black, Latino, Asian or Pacific Islander, Native American, and Mixed/Other Race). A maximum diversity score of 1.79 would occur if each group was represented evenly in the region. This measure is tracked over time to determine if a region is becoming more or less diverse. Tucson had a diversity score of 1.1 in 2019. That was a substantial increase from 1980 when the score was 0.8. There has been no change in Tucson’s score over the past decade. Among the MSAs tracked on the MAP, Las Vegas had the highest diversity score at 1.4 while El Paso had the lowest at 0.6. El Paso is the only MSA that has seen its diversity score decrease over the past forty years. Figure 2 highlights the diversity score for the U.S., the western states, and Tucson’s peer MSAs.

Figure 2: Diversity Score

The National Equity Atlas includes several other demographic measures that are also included on the MAP Dashboard website as core indicators. These include the breakdown of race and ethnicity by population for each region, population growth rate, median age, and the working-age population. We will discuss these measures below as to how they pertain to diversity, equity, and inclusion in our region.

The National Equity Atlas explores the percent change in population by race and ethnicity between 2010 and 2019 (Figure 3). In Tucson during that time, the mixed/other race increased by 27.0%, those identifying as Asian or Pacific Islander increased by 16.0%, the Latino population grew by 13.0%, while the Black and Native American populations increased by 8.0% and 7.0% respectively. During this same time, the white population declined by 2.0%. The growth in population by race and ethnicity in Tucson was similar to the trend seen nationally with the mixed/other and Asian or Pacific Islander races growing the most and the white population leveling off or declining. The only significant difference was that the Native American population declined nationally while growing by 7.0% in Tucson.

The population is expected to continue to become more diverse over the next couple of decades. It is important to track how our communities are changing in order to remove barriers that may exist and create policies that allow all members of our community to access economic and educational opportunities.

Figure 3: Population Growth by Race & Ethnicity (2010 – 2019)

The MAP provides a breakdown of population by race and ethnicity on the Population Profile indicator page. In 2020, the Hispanic or Latino population accounted for 37.5% of Tucson’s population. That was significantly higher than the national rate of 18.2% (Figure 4). The white, not Hispanic or Latino population accounted for the highest percentage at 51.1%. The detailed breakdown of population by race and ethnicity and the age distribution for all the communities tracked on the MAP can be found on the comparison page.

Figure 4:

Population by Ethnicity Infographic 2020

The National Equity Atlas also provides a detailed analysis of the working-age population by race and ethnicity. Nationally, white residents made up 61.0% of the prime working-age (25-64) age group in 2019. However, that drops to 54.0% for those just entering the workforce (18-24).   The diversity of those entering the workforce is also substantially greater for the Tucson region as illustrated in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Population by Race and Ethnicity by Select Age Groups

This points to the importance of tracking how the demographics of a region are changing in order to inform public policy, community planning, and to make sure systems are in place to support a changing workforce. Stay tuned for related MAP articles discussing the topics of economic equity and how connected the Tucson region is in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion.