Spatial Demography

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 145–169 | Cite as

The Spatial Diffusion of Racial and Ethnic Diversity Across U.S. Counties

  • Michael J. R. Martin
  • Stephen A. Matthews
  • Barrett A. Lee


Although increasing racial and ethnic diversity is a demographic trend with society-wide implications, it has advanced farther in some parts of the United States than others. Our research seeks to understand this unevenness at the local level. Drawing on 1980–2010 census data, we use an innovative spatial analytic approach to examine the spread or diffusion of diversity across counties in the 48 contiguous states. Three perspectives—locational persistence, spatial assimilation, and institutional hub—offer different expectations about the nature of the diffusion process. The perspectives are evaluated by mapping changes in the magnitude and structure of diversity and by tracing county transitions between types of diversity clusters. We document considerable stability in diversity patterns over a 30-year period, consistent with the logic of locational persistence. But support is also found for the spatial assimilation and institutional hub models in the form of cluster-type transitions that reflect contagious diffusion and hierarchical diffusion, respectively.


Racial-ethnic diversity Counties Contagious diffusion Hierarchical diffusion Spatial assimilation Entropy index 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael J. R. Martin
    • 1
  • Stephen A. Matthews
    • 1
  • Barrett A. Lee
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Sociology and Population Research InstituteThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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