Unexpectedly Intriguing!
March 21, 2011

How different are the U.S. and Canada with respect to each other where racial and ethnic diversity is concerned?

We thought we might try taking a stab at answering that question using data from 2006, the last year in which Canada conducted a national census of its population, which we'll compare with the U.S. Census' population estimates for that year.

Canada, Visible Minority Population 2006 Census

Our first chart shows the racial and ethnic breakdown for Canada, which shows the numbers and relative sizes of what Canada calls its "visible minority" population. Here, unlike the approach taken by the U.S. Census in grouping people according to their race or ethnicity, Canada groups its minority population according to their ancestors' geographic origin.

United States, Annual Estimate of Resident Population by Race, July 1, 2006

As you can see in our next chart showing the U.S. population breakdown just by race, that makes it difficult to directly compare the Canadian population with the U.S. population, which looks much less diverse by comparison (because of fewer categories), even though minorities make up a much larger relative share of the total population than does the visible minority population in Canada.

To address that seemingly simple representation of the U.S. population, we next broke each of the U.S. racial population categories to factor in the portion of each racial group who claim some degree of Hispanic origin.

United States, Annual Estimate of Resident Population by Race and Hispanic Origin, July 1, 2006

Once we break the data out this way, we find that segmenting the U.S. population like this shows that the U.S. population's diversity is at least on par with Canada's population, at least going by the number of categories.

However, except for very limited categories, we're still not able to directly compare the relative racial diversity of both nations, because so far, what we're really doing is an apples-to-oranges kind of comparison. Changing that to be a much better apples-to-apples kind of comparison will take some additional work....

Data Sources

Statistics Canada. 2006 Census. Visible Minority Population, by Province and Territory. Accessed 16 March 2011.

U.S. Census Bureau. Population Estimates. Annual Estimates of the Resident Population by Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin for the United States: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2009 (NC-EST2009-03). Accessed 16 March 2011.

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