As a GIS professional, perceiving the world through geography is my dominant lens. One of the principal tenants of Geography is Tobler’s First Law of Geography:
Everything is related to everything else. But near things are more related than distant things.
More and more, we live in neighborhoods with others like ourselves, mimicking Tobler’s “law.” America is becoming more divided, segregated, and polarized. We are becoming more isolated in our like-minded communities and information bubbles, making it much more difficult to act compassionately and recognize our common bonds.
Many studies have revealed the advantages of economically and racially/ethnically diverse neighborhoods. One such study, the City Observatory Study measured the socioeconomic mixing of neighborhoods. The study’s author, Joe Cortright, points out that diverse communities display high levels of civic cohesion. “They create opportunities for people to have many more interactions with people very different from themselves.” Moreover, more integrated communities provide better connections to jobs, schools, civic resources, and other opportunities.
Esri created the Diversity Index to summarize racial and ethnic diversity in the US, down to the Census Block Group level. The index shows the likelihood that two people chosen at random from the mapped level will belong to a different race or ethnic group. The range is from 0 (no diversity) to 100 (complete diversity).
This map shows the Diversity Index for the Coachella Valley at the scale of Census Tracts. As a region, we have a high diversity of diversity (couldn’t resist), from a low of 14.5 in Sun City and 17.9 in a tract in Palm Desert to a high of 89.6 in a tract southeast of La Quinta. But you see in the map a real mixing of diversity scales all throughout the valley. Because of diversity in the Coachella Valley, one is never far away from a remarkably diverse neighborhood. Perhaps this wonderfully multi-color map can help us recognize the importance of seeing ourselves as one region working for the greater good.