Farmland outside a Midwestern city turns into a bedroom enclave of commuting urban professionals. A handful of non-white people move to Dubuque, Iowa. Already diverse cities become increasingly mixed with immigrants from Asia, Africa and Latin America.

These are just some of the ways diversity is increasing in U.S. communities.

[ Donald Trump lost most of the American economy in this election]

To quantify how America is changing, we used the diversity index, which measures the chance that two people chosen at random will not be the same race and ethnicity. A high score means a county has people of many races and ethnicities, while a low score means the community is made up of a single dominant group.

To make these maps, we calculated the racial and ethnic diversity in every county in the contiguous United States for 2000, and again with the latest data from 2014.  

Not diverse, but changing fast

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Low diversity in 2000;

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The bright yellow areas had very little diversity in 2000 but are experiencing the greatest rate of change. This pattern is evident from northern New England through vast swaths of the Midwest. It covers 56 million people.  That’s one-sixth of the country that remained almost completely white all the way to 2000, but is now beginning the gradual change to a multicultural mix.

“When I was growing up in 1960s Dubuque, you didn’t see any other race, practically everybody was white,” said Janelle Lutgen, a Republican activist in Iowa. “I don’t think I worked with anybody of color, or went to school with anybody of color.”

But now Dubuque and the neighboring tri-State area of Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin along the Mississippi River is bright yellow with change, enough to generate some friction.

[ If you’ve ever described people as ‘white working class,’ read this]

Dubuque had a Black Lives Matter march and rally earlier this month. The participants mirrored the Iowa community — they were virtually all white — but said that addressing division was a goal. Lutgen, the Republican activist, agreed that change doesn’t have to mean conflict.

“I think it’s more the unknown than the actual problem,” she said of neighbors uncomfortable with increased diversity. “It’s more a perceived  problem than an actual problem.”

A different type of bright yellow spot is Hamilton County, Ind., a commuter haven just north of Indianapolis, where diversity is arriving in the form of rapid growth. This county’s population increased by 59 percent since 2000, and the community offers affordable housing, a thriving business community and excellent schools.

The arrivals are often professional and diverse. In 2000, the county was 93 percent white, while in 2014, it was 85 percent white, with the second-largest group being Asians, followed by Hispanics and African Americans. 

Cities in this county made it on lists of “ best places to live” and “ happiest suburb.” Hamilton had the nation’s greatest increase in racial and ethnic diversity of any county with at least 50,000 people.

Already very diverse

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High diversity in 2000;

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High diversity in 2000;

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The blue swath of the country is made of counties that are already diverse. More than 190 million people, 60 percent of the country, lives in this blue area. It includes big cities, which are magnets for diverse populations. The curved region in the Southeast includes areas with white and African American communities, as well as Georgia and the Carolinas, where the Hispanic population is increasing.

[ How rural resentment helps explain the surprising victory of Donald Trump]

The Southwest is a mix of Hispanic, white and Native American. The Pacific Northwest is similar, but has an additional Asian population which increases diversity.

Some places in these blue areas, however, can be very different at the neighborhood level. A county can contain smaller segregated communities in addition to more diverse neighborhoods.

Diverse and getting more so

High diversity in 2000;

big increase by 2014

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High diversity in 2000;

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The diversity index measurement has a natural cap, so once a place is very diverse, the measurement will not keep increasing. There is no place that registered the highest level of diversity and also in the highest rate of change. These scattered light blue and light green areas, however, have become more diverse since 2000.  Notable clusters of increasing diversity surround Boston, Seattle and Orlando. The area covers almost 60 million people, just under one-fifth of the country.

Not diverse and staying that way

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Even when most of the country is becoming more diverse, there is an exception to every rule. The isolated zones of dark green are neither diverse nor experiencing change. They include just over 8 million people, 3 percent of the nation. Some of them are areas that are almost all Hispanic, such as along the Texas-Mexico border, or are entirely Native American. Some of those places are likely to remain homogeneous into the foreseeable future.

[ To improve diversity, don’t make people go to diversity training. Really.]

In addition, clusters of counties in West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana and Idaho have remained virtually all white since 2000.  

How people react to changing diversity

Before and since the election, diversity has been at the heart of issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement, resistance to political correctness, the “Hamilton” cast’s message to Vice President-elect Mike Pence and attitudes about immigration.

Perceptions of “other” people lead not only to misunderstandings, experts said, but also to hostility.   Some of it is simple psychology. People know their own lives are complex and have many explanations for what they do, said Patrick R. Grzanka, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Tennessee who studies social inequality. But people then reduce “outside groups” to a cardboard caricature – and a negative one at that.

[ Urban and rural America are becoming increasingly polarized]

For instance, residents in a multiethnic urban society can think that they live in a cooperative community of people coming together but disparage rural areas as backward. Meanwhile, people in rural communities prize their tight relationships but describe cities as crime-ridden and harsh. Both sides are shocked at the generalizations used by the other side.

In the wake of the election, Grzanka said, the depth of misunderstanding creates “a profoundly important moment. It is really dangerous.” To cross the barrier, he said, people must say “I need to learn why their version of America is so terrifying to me. … If you hate NAFTA and I love NAFTA, we’ve got to be able to talk about this stuff and not just characterize each other as ridiculous human beings.”

Diversity also makes the country more dynamic and bolsters the workforce, benefits highlighted by demographer William Frey, a research professor at the University of Michigan and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Frey recently published “ Diversity Explosion: How New Racial Demographics are Remaking America.” If you only look at the country’s white population, Frey said, it would look like Japan, with an aging population and too few young workers to grow the economy.

[ Residents in most diverse areas say their neighborhoods are better than others]

He said it’s important to see the diversity question in terms of age. Forty-seven states and 90 percent of the counties have an absolute decline in white population under age 20. All net growth of children in this country is coming from racial and ethnic minorities.

“If we’re going to have a productive economy in the future, new young people with new ideas energizing the labor force — taxpayers supporting the Social Security Trust Fund and Medicare for retirees — it’s in our best interest if this younger generation is treated well and welcomed with open arms into the labor force,” Frey said.

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