Most Diverse City In The World

With the advent of quick, safe transportation and the lure of rich culture and opportunities, many of the world’s cities have become unprecedentedly diverse over the last several decades. This sort of global integration is essential for a prosperous society, and will continue to help unify humanity through empathy and respect. But the recurring juxtaposition does beg the question: What is the most diverse city in the world?

While it’s nearly impossible to objectively evaluate all of the necessary criteria for assessing a city’s diversity, there are a number of notable statistics that can be used in one’s pursuit. One metric by which one could practically evaluate a city’s diversity is by the percentage of its residents that are “foreign-born”. While the definition of foreign-born is somewhat subjective, it generally constitutes a person who lives in a country that is different from the one in which they were born.

By this metric, Miami, Florida, USA is the most diverse city in the world. 58.3% of Miami’s 468,000 residents were born in a country other than the United States. Second is Toronto, Canada at 49%. Toronto rarely receives the recognition it deserves as one of the world’s most diverse cities, but Canada’s largest is home to over 250 ethnicities and 175 different languages.

The top ten major cities by percentage of foreign-born residents:

  • Miami, United States (58.3%)
  • Toronto, Canada (49.0%)
  • Sydney, Australia (45.4%)
  • Vancouver, Canada (42.5%)
  • Melbourne, Australia (41.3%)
  • San Jose, United States (39.3%)
  • Los Angeles, United States (37.7%)
  • New York City, United States (37.5%)
  • London, United Kingdom (36.4%)
  • San Francisco, United States (34.9%)

Another valuable list could be one that considers the cities with the highest total population of foreign-born residents, regardless of the percentage.

The top ten metropolitan areas by total foreign-born population:

New York City, United States (5,656,000) Los Angeles, United States (4,421,000) London, United Kingdom (4,051,502) Toronto, Canada (2,870,000) Hong Kong (2,793,450) San Francisco, United States (2,634,270) Paris, France (2,429,223) Sydney, Australia (2,072,872) Miami, United States (1,949,629) Melbourne, Australia (1,801,139)

An interesting phenomenon occurring within both of these lists is the vast majority of entries that belong to predominantly English-speaking countries (principally Australia, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom). However, the reasons that these countries have become migration destinations are slightly different. Australia and Canada have been considered the world’s most receptive “western” nations to immigrants. Both of these countries have instituted policies that incentivize immigration and provide ample support for the resultant immigrants’ integration into society.

While the United States and the United Kingdom are relatively receptive to a multicultural agenda, the primary driver of immigration to these countries is the labour market and the extensive opportunity for employment.

It’s also worth noting that Australia, Canada, and the United States are all former English colonies that owe their population to a series of focussed immigrant waves; and so the culture of newcomer acceptance is woven into the history of these nations. Moreover, The United States has a world-leading 51 million foreign-born residents.

All of these facts lend themselves, if indirectly, to a problem with evaluating a city’s diversity based on its foreign-born residents alone.

While measuring a city’s number of foreign-born residents can be valuable when considering it’s diversity, it doesn’t always paint the full picture. Sometimes, a city draws a very large percentage of its foreign-born residents from a specific geographical area. For example, over 95% of Miami’s foreign-born residents come from Central America. While each Central American country has a unique culture, tradition, and identity, they are geographically localized, and speak the same handful of languages. Thus, Miami does not have the total global diversity that its relevance on the above lists would suggest.

With regards to languages, New York City is the most linguistically diverse city in the world. Over 800 languages are spoken within the city’s five boroughs including many that face the risk of extinction. Considering the fact that 23 of the world’s 7,117 recognized languages account for nearly half the world’s population, New York City’s language diversity is nothing short of remarkable. Queens, the city’s second most populous borough, is often considered the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world. Here, more than half of the population speaks a language other than English as a mother tongue.

Cultures and languages aside, there are so many ways to evaluate diversity that it would be multidimensionally reductive to try and assign weight to a list of diversity-qualifying criteria. Philosophical diversity is another preeminent metric, although the number of religions practiced in a city has the tendency to correspond with the number of ethnic groups, and therefore the number of languages spoken.

Class disparity, one could argue, is a negative aspect of diversity. The incredible margin between the rich and the poor can often be oppressive in an urban environment. In terms of income inequality, Johannesburg, South Africa is the most “diverse” city in the world. Here, the richest 10% earns 13.4 times as much as the poorest 40%.

In conclusion, while an objective list is inconceivable, when taking all of the aforementioned into consideration, it would be a shame to refrain from mentioning any of the following ten cities (in no definitive order) for their multifaceted diversity.