Understanding diversity in the United States

What is diversity?

Diversity is a variety of different people, things, or ideas. When we talk about diversity in the United States, it is usually about people and different races. It can also include by other groups such as ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, ability, and age. 

It is not only about differences. It can also be about the way the differences benefit a community. Equity and inclusion are important things to think about when talking about diversity. 

Equity is when all people receive what they need so everyone has fair treatment. For things to be equitable some groups of people need more help than others. 

Equity is not the same as equality. Equality is when people receive the same opportunities. 

Inclusion is about including people from different groups and giving them opportunities. It also means respecting and valuing their experiences and contributions. This is important for those who have typically been excluded. Their input is valuable in community discussions and decision-making. 

Research shows that diverse workplaces are more creative and innovative. They are also better at making decisions.

Race 

Race is something society created that divides people into groups based mostly on physical characteristics. White people are the majority in the United States. People of different races other than white are often called “minorities.”

Based on the 2021 Census, the USA population is:

  • 59.3% White and not Hispanic or Latino 
  • 18.9% Hispanic or Latino
  • 13.6% Black or African American
  • 6.1% Asian
  • 2.9% Two or more races
  • 1.3% American Indian and Alaska Native
  • 0.3% Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander

The United States is more diverse than ever before. Black people are the majority in parts of the south. Hispanic people are the majority in parts of the Southwest and West.

Government forms often ask about race. The information helps make sure services are meeting different groups’ needs.

Racism and discrimination  

Racism and discrimination are a regular part of many people’s lives in the USA. Discrimination is when someone is treated unfairly because they belong to a certain group. Racism is when this treatment is because of their race. 

It is against the law to discriminate against someone because of their:

  • Age
  • Disability 
  • National origin 
  • Race and color 
  • Religion or faith
  • Gender identity or sexual orientation 

You can help stop racism by learning about others’ experiences. Listen to them and try to understand what it is like for them. Share your own experiences with racism. Speak up if someone is saying or doing something that is racist. Report discrimination. 

Race and ethnicity are not the same. Ethnicity is the difference between people due to language and culture. It is based on the place you live or the culture you share with others. Ethnicity is usually chosen by each person. 

Culture

Immigrants from all over the world have come to the United States since the 17th century. There are people of all different ethnicities, with a variety of cultures and languages. Mexican, Chinese, Indian, and Filipino people are among the largest groups.  

Many Americans share similar ways of life and general values. But, not everyone behaves or thinks the same way. There are many different cultures that influence people’s lifestyles. There are cultures from outside the USA as well as cultures from different regions within the country.

Find a helpful list of cultural differences in the USA.

There is no official language in the USA. English is the most widely used language but there are many other languages spoken. These include over 41 million people who speak Spanish and 3.5 million who speak Chinese. There are over 1 million people who speak each Vietnamese, Arabic, French, and Korean.

Religion

There is freedom of religion in the United States. You can practice any religion you want. The government does not impose a particular belief. People follow many different religions and this has influenced American culture and traditions.

The majority of people in the USA describe themselves as Christians. This is followed by those who practice Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. In the last few years, the number of people who do not identify with a religion has also grown.

It is important that our diverse religious community have the opportunity to practice freely, such as giving Muslims a place at work or school to pray.

Sexual orientation and gender  

US federal laws protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender. 

LGBTQ+

LGBTQ+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (trans), and queer. The plus sign “+” is for other sexual and gender identities. 7.1% of people in the USA identify as LGBTQ+. 

The acceptance of LGBTQ+ diversity varies. It depends on location, culture, and individual backgrounds. Across the country, gay marriage is legal and our LGBTQ+ community is celebrated each June during Pride Month. 

Learn more about LGBTQ+ rights

Gender

Diversity in gender can often relate to the differences between men and women, also known as the “gender gap”. For example, men have been given more opportunities in their careers. Some workplaces and job roles are majority men. 

Gender diversity also acknowledges and respects other ways to identify. Some people do not identify exclusively as a man or a woman. Others do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. It is important to use a person’s preferred name and pronouns.

Ability 

Ability diversity refers to varying abilities and disabilities. Each person has different skills. Abilities can vary based on what access someone had to education and other resources.

Disabilities are conditions of the body or mind that makes certain activities more difficult. They could affect a person’s vision, movement, learning, communicating, hearing, and more. It could change the way a person interacts with the world around them. 12.7% of people in the United States have a disability. 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) broke many barriers. It prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment and transportation. ADA bans discrimination in accessing state and local government programs and services.

Age

Age diversity is the acceptance of different ages in the workplace. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act should protect workers over 40 but older workers still report experiencing unequal treatment.

Elders are also not given the same respect they get in many other countries. Their input in decisions is not always as valued or sought after.

As the population in the United States grows older, it has become more diverse too. Elders are more racially diverse. This population faces challenges like economic difficulties, medical care, and loneliness. 

Find helpful resources for seniors.

Diversity is something to be celebrated. Include those who are different from you. Listen to their stories and experiences. Share your own. Value the unique things we each have to offer, especially our immigrant community!
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