When it comes to diversity, Maryland continues to show that it ranks as one of the best in the nation, according to a recent study and census data.
And that ranking may be because of education.
“Maryland has great educational institutions and quite often the more educated one is, the more open one is to new thoughts, ideas, and people,” Howard County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Leonardo McClarty told MarylandReporter.com. “Moreover, people want to reside where there is a feeling of acceptance and where they can be themselves. The federal government and District with the various embassies and international offices also helps to attract people from diverse spaces.”
A WalletHub study published on Tuesday said that the state is the 7th most diverse state in the nation. California was ranked the most diverse state in the nation and West Virginia was ranked the least diverse state in the nation.
Moreover, Maryland ranked 4th in educational attainment-diversity, 5th in racial and ethnic diversity, 9th in both birthplace diversity and household size-diversity, and 10th in income diversity.
WalletHub based its findings on six criteria: “socio-economic diversity, cultural diversity, economic diversity, household diversity, religious diversity and political diversity.” The criteria were assessed across 14 metrics. Each metric was graded on a scale of 0-100. WalletHub used data complied by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Association of Religion Data Archives.
Del. Jheanelle Wilkins, D-Montgomery, said that she is not surprised Maryland ranked so high in the study as the ranking mirrors recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
“We strive to be an inclusive state and that is part of the reason we attract people from all over.”
Wilkins said Maryland’s diversity is a “point of pride” for the state and that lawmakers should strive to make sure that “our policies and actions reflect that” sentiment.
Steven McAdams, who is executive director of the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives, agreed.
“The level of Maryland’s diversity compared to other states does not surprise me at all. I attend community events every week and bear witness to the rich cultural diversity we have. In just the last month, we have had all kinds of events to mark heritage months celebrating Marylanders who are Hispanic and African. Anne Arundel County had its first African Heritage Festival and there was a huge turnout. There are so many Hispanic Heritage Month events that it is hard to count. In our largest county, Montgomery County, people speak 39 different languages.”
McAdams added: “It has a lot to do with our geography being close to Washington, D.C. and the diplomatic community, and Maryland having so much to offer, from urban to suburban to rural living, the Chesapeake Bay, the history, the food, and so much more.”
Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) President Cheryl Bost said the state’s high educational attainment-diversity ranking in the study sounds like it could be misleading.
“There seems to be a disconnect between the descriptor for that study and what a three-year commission found to truly be the case in our schools.”
Bost, who is a Baltimore County elementary school teacher, said the COVID-19 pandemic and research by the Kirwan Commission both highlight the fact that educational equity is not present in many parts of the state.
“We can see through data based on the number of students that did not have connectivity or devices to learn virtually during the pandemic-was disproportionately for our black and brown students and our students living in poverty. We see many opportunity gaps and equity gaps.”
Bost said the enactment into law of Kirwan Commission reforms should help pave the way for greater educational parity throughout the state.
“That is why we invested in the Blueprint. To bring on more community schools. To expand pre-K. And to expand career technology education.”