Study paints bleak picture of ethnic diversity
By John Lloyd in London
A bleak picture of the corrosive effects of ethnic diversity has been revealed in research by Harvard University’s Robert Putnam, one of the world’s most influential political scientists.
His research shows that the more diverse a community is, the less likely its inhabitants are to trust anyone – from their next-door neighbour to the mayor.
This is a contentious finding in the current climate of concern about the benefits of immigration. Professor Putnam told the Financial Times he had delayed publishing his research until he could develop proposals to compensate for the negative effects of diversity, saying it “would have been irresponsible to publish without that”.
The core message of the research was that, “in the presence of diversity, we hunker down”, he said. “We act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it’s not just that we don’t trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don’t trust people who do look like us.”
Prof Putnam found trust was lowest in Los Angeles, “the most diverse human habitation in human history”, but his findings also held for rural South Dakota, where “diversity means inviting Swedes to a Norwegians’ picnic”.
When the data were adjusted for class, income and other factors, they showed that the more people of different races lived in the same community, the greater the loss of trust. “They don’t trust the local mayor, they don’t trust the local paper, they don’t trust other people and they don’t trust institutions,” said Prof Putnam. “The only thing there’s more of is protest marches and TV watching.”
Oddly enough, although Putnam claims he suppressed publishing his research for years, I wrote about his study in VDARE.com way back in 2001:
I lived in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood, which is on the lakefront about six miles north of the Loop. Uptown boasts of being the most linguistically diverse square mile in America. Supposedly, 88 different languages are spoken there (or maybe 110, depending on who is telling the story).
For someone like myself who is fascinated by human biodiversity, Uptown is wonderfully educational. Just don't call it a community. Being an unneighborly sort myself, that was OK with me. Fortunately, most people are less anti-social.
When my wife and I first moved in, she helped start a neighborhood drive to repair the ramshackle little park across the street. To get the City of Chicago to agree to help, we'd need to raise matching funds and sign up volunteer laborers. This kind of Robert D. Putnam-endorsed civic activity proved strikingly difficult in Uptown, however, precisely because of its remarkable diversity.
The most obvious problem: it's hard to talk neighbors into donating money or time if they don't speak the same language as you do.
The second problem: the high crime rate. The affluent South Vietnamese merchants from the adjoining Little Saigon district on Argyle St. had scant interest in sending their kids to play in a park that would also be used by black kids from the local housing project. The Asians were generally scared of the much bigger and more raucous African-Americans.
Third problem: inter-immigrant hatreds. The Eritreans and Ethiopians are slender, elegant-looking dark brown people with thin Arab noses. They appear identical to the American eye. But their compatriots back home in the Horn of Africa were fighting a vicious war.
Fourth problem: a lot of the immigrants came from countries where only a fool trusted his neighbors, much less the government. If the South Vietnamese had been less clannish and more ready to sacrifice for the greater good from 1965-1975, as their militaristic North Vietnamese enemies did, they'd be lousier restaurateurs. But they'd probably still have their own country.
Fifth problem: the fundamental difficulty in making multiculturalism work, namely, multiple cultures. Getting Koreans, Russians, Mexicans, Nigerians, and Assyrians (Christian Iraqis) to agree on how to landscape a park is not impossible. Yet it's certainly far more work than fostering consensus among people who all have the same picture in their heads of what a park is for.
For example, Russian women like to sunbathe. But Latin American women want to stay in the shade, since their culture discriminates in favor of fairer-skinned women. So do you plant a lot of shade trees or not?
In the end, the middle class, English-speaking, native-born Americans (mostly white, but with plenty of black-white couples) did the bulk of the work.
And, after that struggle, everybody seemed to give up on trying to bring Uptown together for civic betterment.
Here's the LA Times article I noticed five years ago:
Love Thy Neighbor? Not in L.A.
Community: Angelenos are among the least trusting, according to a national survey by a Harvard researcher.
By PETER Y. HONG, L.A. Times Staff Writer