Warwick was ranked as one of the least diverse cities in the nation, according to the “Most & Least Ethnically Diverse Cities in the U.S.” study published by financial and research analysis company WalletHub, which compared 501 of the country’s large, medium and small-sized cities.
Out of 10 Rhode Island cities that made the list, Warwick was listed as the least diverse with a rank of 446th. Cranston was ranked 228th, Pawtucket was the 41st most diverse and Providence came in close to the top at number 13 and was the fifth most diverse medium-sized city listed in the report.
According to the numbers, which were gathered using U.S. Census Bureau statistics, 56.36 percent of Rhode Islanders were born in the state. However, Rhode Island also had the 11th-highest percentage of residents who were born outside of the United States (14.1 percent).
To achieve the rankings, WalletHub utilized three metrics – ethnoracial diversity (50 points possible); linguistic diversity (33 points possible); and birthplace diversity (17 points possible) – and compounded into a total score out of 100. Warwick ranked 452nd in ethnoracial diversity, 320th in linguistic diversity and 433rd in birthplace diversity.
According to data from the Census, it was estimated in July of 2016 that 73.3 percent of citizens in Rhode Island were solely white; 8.1 percent were black or African American; and 3.6 percent were Asian. A total of 14.9 percent identified as Hispanic or Latino. People with two or more races, Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders and American Indian Indians and Alaskan Natives totaled 3.9 percent.
Also according to the Census, about 213,675 Rhode Islanders speak a language other than English, which is above the national average of 21.5 percent. Spanish is the most common non-English language, at 10.7 percent. Next most popular is Portuguese, at 3 percent, then French at 1 percent and followed by Italian, French Creole and Chinese, each at 0.7 percent.
For some in the community, while they have noticed trends increasing in terms of diversity among the population, they would not go so far as to call Warwick a legitimate melting pot.
“We have seen more diversity as of late in our membership than we ever have, but I would not say that it is truly a diverse community,” said Lara D’Antuono, executive director for the Warwick Boys and Girls Club, which oversees over 1,400 young members at the city’s three club locations.
D’Antuono recalled experiences she had as a child during vacations in Barbados where she and a sibling were the only white people among a large group of people. She said the experience was a powerful and shaping one and that such experiences can have tremendously positive effects on the growth of young people.
“I think diversity for kids is important on a bunch of levels,” she said. “It’s exposure. Kids learn through exposure and learn through other kids. Kids socialize other kids, and they’re going to learn more through the socialization of other kids than what we can teach or tell them.”
She used the example of a kid going over to a friend’s house to experience Hanukkah for the first time, or eating an authentic ethnic cuisine at a community potluck for the first time. She said that kids being able to open their minds and hearts to other cultures is something that is only beneficial to their advancement and social-emotional development going forward.
“It’s those little things that make a big difference,” she said. “You can’t teach those things.”