The most diverse city in America isn’t what you think it is

When I, and many other people, think of diverse places to live, I think about cities, particularly coastal cities. In the popular imagination, these urban meccas are where the crossroads of the world intersect, where folks from all over the world make their bets and their beds. So it’s a little bit surprising to learn that the most diverse city in the world has a population of only around 7,000, and is a little outside of Anchorage. That’s right: For the truest peek at the world’s human diversity, head to Mountain View, Alaska.

According to a University of Alaska demographer, Mountain View has about equal population portions of several minority groups, as well as a significant indigenous Alaskan population. This means that every walk down the city’s streets offers up more languages and cultural experiences than any comparable slice of New York City or Los Angeles, and throws the notion that smaller cities or more out-of-the-ways places are more homogenous out the window.

What brings folks from every corner of the world to Mountain View? Part of it has to do with a local military base and plenty of housing, but for many people, the biggest draw to Mountain View appears to be exactly its rich history of diversity: diaspora populations from as far as Samoa or Ethiopia find pre-existing communities in this small Alaskan city, and presumably are laying down the groundwork for more diaspora generations to come.

Though the title “the most diverse city in America” seems pretty remarkable for Mountain View, keep in mind that this stat is based on proportional population slices; comparable figures in other cities would be astounding, particularly for those cities that are populated by multiple large immigrant communities. That said, Mountain View helps shed some light into the importance of diversity and how it should actually be measured and weighted as a cultural force. Diversity itself is meaningless if it doesn’t create and foster a multitude of cultural experiences for its residents to actually join and interact with; this is the case whether you’re in NYC, LA, Chicago, Austin, or even a comparatively smaller and sleepier city just outside of Anchorage, Alaska.