"You see, growing up, my family moved around a lot. And I never really had roots in any one place or culture or ethnic group," the president said. "Then I came to Chicago. And on those Chicago streets, I worked alongside men and women who were black and white; Latino and Asian; people of every class and nationality and religion. I came to discover that Chicago is that most American of American cities, but one where citizens from more than 130 nations inhabit a rich tapestry of distinctive neighborhoods."
But, is Chicago really the most diverse and thus the most American of our cities?
Looking at the U.S. Census'2 estimated population of 244 U.S. cities by racial group and Hispanic origin, let’s see how Chicago compares to a typical U.S. city. It looks like the white population is significantly underrepresented by at least minus 21-percentage points compared to the average city. Conversely, African Americans and Latinos are overrepresented by 16- and 7-percentage points higher, respectively. Browsing through the U.S. Census list, we come across the Texas City of Arlington. Its population profile looking at similar measures is in fact closer to what an average American city might look like. Consider that the differences are at most only two-percentage points higher or lower than the typical city’s population proportions by racial group and Hispanic origin. Likewise, the equivalent population shares of Arlington’s smaller communities, including Asian Americans, more closely resemble that of the average U.S. city than Chicago does.Comparing the data of these two cities, Arlington’s diversity is more reflective of the racial profile of a typical American city. Should Arlington’s Mayor Dr. Robert Cluck have then sought to host the 2016 Olympics, he could have practically used the words used by the President to promote his very own city, which incidentally also shares a similar slogan that President Obama used in his last campaign: “We can.”3
Understandably, mere population counts and their distribution based on racial and ethnic groups do not account for all the many complex parameters defining a city’s diverse profile nor, for that matter, its American character. Along with other demographic hues such as gender, age and education, there’s a rich palette that one needs to use in order to paint a city’s true and real picture, like history, culture, economy, and politics, among others. That’s what a true Chicago fan would argue, as does one avid blogger.4
But, just don’t forget the rest of us who live in all the other great cities of this nation—and, yes, including Arlington.1Kathy Bergen, “Flat pitch to IOC: 'Without the Obamas, Chicago had nothing,' Olympic historian says”, Chicago Tribune, Oct. 3, 2009
4Whet Moser, ”Chicago: ‘The most American of American cities’?”, Chicago Reader, Oct. 2, 2009