Provo more diverse than report finds, residents say

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Provo is one of the least diverse cities in the nation, according to a new WalletHub report.

The report took the top 10 most populated cities from each state and ranked them according to factors of socioeconomic, cultural, economic, household and religious diversity. The report placed Provo 500th out of 501 cities, with Orem ranking at 499 and Salt Lake City at 162.

Source: WalletHub

Provo Mayor John Curtis said he recognizes Provo could be more diverse, but believes there are other factors not mentioned in the report that add to Provo’s diversity, like residents who have lived abroad or who speak a second language.

A different 2017 report by WalletHub examining solely cultural diversity ranked Provo much higher, at 227 of 501 cities. The cultural diversity report was based on ethnoracial diversity, linguistic diversity and birthplace diversity.

“If you simply look at our restaurants downtown, you’ll see this amazing array of nationalities that are represented — anything from Sri Lanka to Peru to Brazil,” Curtis said. “It comes from people having lived around the world bringing these great traditions back.”

Amrik Singh is the owner of the downtown Provo restaurant India Palace. When Singh came to Provo from India almost 20 years ago, he spoke very little English and had no way of supporting himself and his family.

Ari Davis
Amrik Singh came to Provo almost 20 years ago. He said the community has welcomed him from the start. (Ari Davis)

He said the members of the Provo community helped him from the beginning, finding his wife a job and teaching them both English. Now Singh owns two restaurants and has raised his children and grandchildren in Provo.

Singh said he feels like the local culture is very similar to his own, and he loves telling his friends and family around the world how welcoming the people in Provo have been to him.

“I feel proud,” Singh said. “I feel the number-one place (in the world) is here in Utah, in Provo.”

Curtis said the best way Provo residents can encourage diversity is by welcoming it when it comes.

“Hopefully we’re building an environment in Provo that when diversity comes to our city, (Provo) enjoys it and it stays,” Curtis said. “I think that that’s the beginning of having a diverse community, is one that’s receptive.”

Leo Rivas, originally from El Salvador, co-owns the restaurant El Salvador with his family. Rivas has lived in Provo for 14 years.

Ari Davis
Leo Rivas, co-owner of El Salvador restaurant, said he thinks Provo is diverse, but Americans could do better to welcome diversity overall. (Ari Davis)

Rivas said he thinks people in North America could be more welcoming of diversity overall, but he’s never had a problem in Provo.

“I see a lot of diversity. I don’t know where they came (up) with the idea that it’s not diverse,” Rivas said. “If you look through the window right now, you’re going to see that most of the people going by will be from different places.”

Aadesh Neupane, a BYU student from Nepal, said Provo isn’t as diverse as others places he’s visited in the United States. However, he’s met people in Provo who come from other places around the world and he feels welcome in the community.

From right: Aadesh Neupane works with fellow computer science student John Grosh in the Talmage Building. Neupane, an international student from Nepal, said he thinks BYU will bring more diversity to Provo. (Danielle Jardine)

Neupane said he thinks BYU itself will help increase Provo’s diversity.

“BYU is really famous outside the country, and it’s a good university,” Neupane said. “I think that this would be the main attraction that will increase the diversity in this area.”

College ranking website College Factual ranks BYU as one of the better college campuses for diversity, placing BYU at No. 307 out of 2,397 colleges.

College Factual’s diversity ranking takes into account universities’ ethnic diversity, ratio of men to women and geographic diversity.

BYU is above the national average in its ratio of women to men, according to College Factual. While the national average is 40 percent female and 60 percent male students, BYU’s student population is 45.5 percent female and 54.5 percent male.

Students from BYU represent all 50 states and BYU is ranked the number-one value college for international students, College Factual reports.

BYU is only below the national average in ethnic diversity, with 16.8 percent of the student body coming from non-white ethnic groups.

Curtis said many Provo residents may seem to be alike — both in appearance and according to the numbers — but there is much diversity to be found within the similarities Provo residents share.

He said he loves attending events like the Rooftop Concert Series, where Provo’s diversity shines.

“You’ll see everybody from grandparents to grandkids and lots of cross-sections (of people), and they all get along together and enjoy each other. They’re all comfortable together,” Curtis said. “I think part of the secret in Provo is that we do embrace this diversity.”