David Sim

Interactions among people of diverse racial and ethnic groups might help drive the creativity that propels metropolitan economies, according to a Boston Globe article that mentions the work of SFI External Professor Scott Page.

The article, by Robert Sullivan, proposes a new method for gleaning diversity measures from U.S. Census data. Sullivan’s measure, which he calls “diversity density,” calculates “the number of people per square mile who do not claim membership in either of the county’s two largest racial/ethnic groups.” 

Sullivan sought to measure this aspect of diversity because interactions between people from different backgrounds have been shown to contribute to innovation and economic growth. He cites Page's book “The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies” and his conclusion that cognitive diversity drives creative economies. “Being in a [diverse] city you can see differences that keep your mind fertile,” according to Page.

By accounting for both the range of ethnic and racial groups in a given neighborhood and the number of representatives from those groups, diversity density aims to reveal how likely it is that people from different backgrounds will encounter each other in the same space, Sullivan writes. In the author’s words, it “tries to gauge the real experience of diversity in a city.”

Read the Boston Globe article (June 12, 2011)

More about Page's book (January 18, 2007)