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Washington, DC—New analysis of regional demographics from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) finds that more than two in five adult women of color in the United States—about 17.5 million—reside in the South, but concentrations of women of different racial and ethnic groups vary widely by region. The states with the largest concentration of Hispanic women, for instance, are primarily located in the Pacific and Mountain West regions, while the states with the largest concentration of Black women are in the South.
The Pacific West is the most broadly diverse region in the country, according to a new measure of regional diversity developed by IWPR, which scores each region based on the number of women from each racial and ethnic group, rather than on the concentration of the non-White population as a whole. Nearly a quarter of women of color in the United States reside in the Pacific West region, a little more than half of the number that reside in the South, but the Pacific West has larger female populations of Hispanic, Asian and Pacific Islander, American Indian and Alaska Native women, and women of two or more races than the United States overall. The South, by contrast, has a larger concentration of Black women than the rest of the country, but has fewer White women and women of color from other racial and ethnic groups than the United States overall.

“As demographic trends are reshaping the populations of regions around the country, it is no longer enough to gauge diversity as simply a measure of White vs. non-White,” said IWPR President Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D. “Each region has a different combination of women who are White, Black, Latina, Asian and Pacific Islander, Native American, or two or more races. Those different regional profiles matter when developing public policy and understanding the electorate.”

Out of a maximum score of 1.8, which would reflect equal proportional shares of women of each racial and ethnic group, the United States overall received a diversity score of 1.1. But analysis of the diversity of young women and girls (age 10-24) underscores the shifting demographics among women of color across the United States. Although the regional concentration of the 14.1 million girls and young women of color in the United States tracks closely the trends among adult women of color—with two in five residing in the South and nearly a quarter in the Pacific West—there are notable increases in the share of the population represented by Hispanic girls (21.2 percent of girls and young women are Hispanic, compared with 14.2 percent of adult women) and girls who are two or more races or another race (3.5 percent, compared with 1.7 percent of adult women).

Each region’s diversity score for the young women and girls population is higher than its score for adult women. When looking at just its adult female population, the Northeast region is less diverse than the United States overall (with a diversity score of 1.0). But the region is more diverse than the country overall when looking at its younger population of women. Although California is the most diverse state in the country among adult women, Hawaii and Alaska are the most diverse states among young women and girls. Maine, Vermont, and West Virginia are the least diverse states for both female adults and young women and girls.

“Not only is the United States becoming more diverse among women, it is also, of course, becoming more broadly diverse,” Dr. Hartmann said. “Understanding these changing patterns will help policymakers and community leaders better address the varying needs of their constituents.”

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women and their families, promote public dialogue, and strengthen communities and societies.