November 19, 2013

Dr. Vibrant notices diversity v. community trade-off

At the Atlantic, fashionable geographer Richard Florida (or, as I call him to minimize confusion with the state of Florida, "Dr. Vibrant") finally stops being oblivious to the obvious:
The Paradox of Diverse Communities
RICHARD FLORIDA7:00 AM ET80 COMMENTS

Urbanists and planners like to imagine and design for a world of diversity. Diversity, we like to think, is both a social good and, as I’ve argued, a spur to innovation and economic growth. 
But to what degree is this goal of diverse, cohesive community attainable, even in theory? 
That’s the key question behind an intriguing new study, “The (In)compatibility of Diversity and Sense of Community,” published in the November edition of the American Journal of Community Psychology. The study, by sociologist Zachary Neal and psychologist Jennifer Watling Neal, both of Michigan State University (full disclosure: I was an external member of the former’s dissertation committee), develops a nifty agent-based computer model to test this question. 
Their simulations of more than 20 million virtual “neighborhoods” demonstrate a troubling paradox: that community and diversity may be fundamentally incompatible goals. As the authors explain, integration “provides opportunities for intergroup contact that are necessary to promote respect for diversity, but may prevent the formation of dense interpersonal networks that are necessary to promote sense of community.” 
Their models focus on the emergence of the “community-diversity dialectic” based on two simple principles: homophily – the tendency of people to bond with others like themselves – and proximity – the tendency of people to bond with those nearby. Their models look at how the strength of these basic tendencies affect the evolution of neighborhoods comprised of two distinct populations (say by race, class, ethnicity and so on). In these simulated neighborhoods, the possible levels of integration ranged from 0 percent (totally segregated) to 50 percent (totally integrated). 
In the images below, the authors show three sample neighborhoods with low, medium, and high levels of integration. Notice how much denser the resulting social networks are (in the bottom row) in the highly segregated neighborhood at far left. (You can also play around with an interactive version of the model on Neal’s website, adjusting the levels of homophily, proximity, and integration yourself). 
... The graph below, from the study, plots quite plainly the negative relationship between community cohesion and diversity. 
These findings are sobering. Because homophily and proximity are so ingrained in the way humans interact, the models demonstrated that it was impossible to simultaneously foster diversity and cohesion “in all reasonably likely worlds.” In fact, the trends are so strong that no effective social policy could combat them, according to Neal. As he put it in a statement, “In essence, when it comes to neighborhood desegregation and social cohesion, you can't have your cake and eat it too.” 
... Jane Jacobs liked to say that great cities are federations of neighborhoods. It’s exactly what I see in vibrant cities like New York or Toronto. When I asked Neal about this, he sounded a more optimistic note: “Their patchwork of segregated communities allows for both diversity and cohesion. We usually view segregation as problematic, but when it comes in the form of a patchwork of neighborhoods and enclaves that each have their own character, it may actually ‘work.’” 
For this reason, urbanists and local policy makers might be better off refocusing their efforts away from the unachievable ideal of diverse and cohesive neighborhoods and toward creating cohesion across the various neighborhoods that make up a city. 
In his watershed book Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam distinguished between two types of social capital: “bonding,” which occurs within like-minded groups, and “bridging,” which occurs between them. If, as the Neals’ study shows, we can’t make our neighborhoods more diverse and cohesive at the same time, perhaps the primary, over-arching, and achievable objective is to reinforce the bridging ties between them. Given the growing economic, cultural, and political divides within our cities and across the nation as a whole, working to strengthen the “bridges” between communities may be a far more realistic approach than attempting the impossible task of trying to make everywhere more diverse.

I wrote about Putnam's research six years ago here.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

What really is there to say? If diversity were so wonderful, it would have proven itself on its own.

Anonymous said...

Well, I knew a lot of right wing Republicans didn't want to live in Santa Ana or Anaheim either, if they couldn't afford South Orange County they moved to a suburb in Arizona or Texas that is under 30 percent Mexican.

Sequester Grundleplith said...

"Patchwork" and "bridging" are actually good buzzwords that could be used to make sensible policy more politically palatable. Nobody wants to say he favors "segregation," but a phrase like "a patchwork of cohesive neighborhoods" would roll off a candidate's tongue pretty well and is no more anodyne and vacuous than it has to be.

Anonymous said...

"Diversity, we like to think, is both a social good and, as I’ve argued, a spur to innovation and economic growth", there are very undiverse places like Korea, Japan, Sweden (well until recently at least), all of these places have had economic growth and innovation. How these people can openly ignore the blatant fact that some of the wealthiest countries in the world also happen to be the most homogeneous - its simply incredible.

Anonymous said...

It's really simple. Diversity is no big problem as long as a city is majority white and has few or no blacks and not too many browns.
This is why Toronto is a decent place. It's mostly whites and patchworks of immigrant groups who are hardworking and law-abiding.

Anonymous said...

How to talk to Whites/Euros...

Before the house is built:
Swamp land is the best place to build a house - it really really is. If you don't belive that then you must be a swamp land hater and should be dealt with accordingly.

After the house is built:
There are some studies that show that houses built in swamps may sink. You may want to fill in your patch with something other than swamp. Good luck - gotta go.



Anonymous said...

Patchwork is fine as long as the diversity of higher quality. Imagine a city that is 70% white. Suppose it has patchworks of Persian towns, Chinatowns, affluent Asian-Indian towns, conquistador-Hispanic towns, and etc. It's gonna be okay. It may have a good restaurant scene and offer different kinds of culture.

But suppose 30% of the city was black. The city would have lots of no-go zones.

The problem isn't diversity per se. Detroit is pretty homogeneously black and sucks because of it. Genuine diversity--arrival of all sorts of non-blacks--would be a huge boon to Detroit.

Anonymous said...

"there are very undiverse places like Korea, Japan, Sweden (well until recently at least), all of these places have had economic growth and innovation."

It's worse than that. The Economist magazine pretty much admitted that more diversity equals less economic growth. Sometime the Matrix slips.

d..... said...

If Richard Florida married Robert Indiana, his name would be Richard Florida Indiana.

Art Deco said...

But suppose 30% of the city was black. The city would have lots of no-go zones.

No, the city would have no-go zones if the city fathers refused to hire the necessary cops to police those neighborhoods and deter and incapacitate the hoodlums therein.

Ed said...

The problem isn't diversity per se. Detroit is pretty homogeneously black and sucks because of it. Genuine diversity--arrival of all sorts of non-blacks--would be a huge boon to Detroit.
++++++++++++++++++

Diversity is coming to Detroit, it's just that it is not spreading much to liking of Blacks, ironically.

http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20131117/OPINION01/311170002/1008/OPINION01/Finley-Will-downtown-Detroit-white-enclave-

Darwin's Sh*tlist said...

What really is there to say? If diversity were so wonderful, it would have proven itself on its own.

This puts it quite nicely. If you take the diversiphile argument seriously, then we don't need most of our anti-discrimination laws. Those institutions that embrace diversity will flourish, and those that don't will wither.

It never quite works out that way, however.

agnostic said...

"Bridging" in New York: the SWPLs in Greenwich Village buy quirky clothing from the SWPLs in the East Village.

Or thugs from Harlem team up with thugs from Washington Heights to go downtown and play knockout on honky pedestrians.

Anonymous said...

The problem isn't diversity per se. Detroit is pretty homogeneously black and sucks because of it. Genuine diversity--arrival of all sorts of non-blacks--would be a huge boon to Detroit.

Los Angeles is better than detroit? would people in winsor Canada want LA next to them?

Anonymous said...

A city where every neighborhood has identical demographics isn't diverse. Where everyplace is diverse, everyplace is the same. A place with homogeny is more diverse that a place that only has diversity. Diversity is relative to reference class; a neighborhood where the streets are all diverse is a homogenous collection a streets. A city where the neighborhoods are all diverse is a homogenous collection of neighborhoods. A country where every state is diverse is a homogenous collection of states. Always pay attention to when liberals switch the reference class; a white neighborhood always lacks diversity, but they switch to the city scale to justify black neighborhoods.

Anonymous said...

But to what degree is this goal of diverse, cohesive community attainable, even in theory?

The answer is simple - we adopt a shared intellectual culture - not a biological based culture dominated by tribal nations, race, and gender.

The ideals of Christian Western philosophy are intellectual in nature - they prescribe non-destructive behavior that will work for any human being - regardless of race, nation, or gender.

The homogeneous ideals of hope, and respect for life, and love, and truth, and forgiveness -- work for everyone. One does not even have to believe in God to use them to better their life and their culture’s life.

Humanity has NO choice but to adopt these ideals - they are the engine of humanities future.

sunbeam said...

Anonymous wrote:

"It's worse than that. The Economist magazine pretty much admitted that more diversity equals less economic growth. Sometime the Matrix slips."

This is something I don't understand. I really don't think "elites" really believe that that having America become Northern Mexico is in the interests of their bottom line.

Maybe.

I'm not so sure how intelligent our "elites" are sometimes though.

Remember that old bromide "If you are so smart, why aren't you rich?"

Sometimes I wonder. The usual path to money in this culture is to be blunt, a result of taking the opportunities presented to you.

I have a theory: The average dude in NYC is going to earn maybe 2 or 3 three times as much money in his life as a person of comparable intelligence in Nebraska. At least. Probably much more.

Now we have the complications of real estate costs, and the price of living. But say we have two hungry, ambitious guys that are willing to work equally hard at the same thing. Just for shits and giggles say they have a passion for making picture frames. Or even fixing engines.

I just think the NYC guy has a much better setup for bringing business into his garage than a guy living in a 1000 person town in Nebraska.

The thing is that if you could take the God's eye view, maybe a guy that graduates from Oklahoma State could do just as well, maybe better than a guy from Harvard if Goldman Sachs hired him. But he isn't, because Goldman Sachs isn't going to hire him.

You can go back to the Enron scandal, which is pretty much forgotten now. I remember reading a bunch of lurid reports at the time (larts of sex), but one thing that stuck in my mind was how much an ostensibly red state energy company loved them some ivy grads.

Ever cross their minds that someone from Texas Tech would have been just as happy to rip off consumers and use soft power? I mean there isn't any shortage of kids from Bumfuck, Egypt that wouldn't have been happy to do that for the money paid.

And well it didn't seem that hard, what the Enron guys were doing. Kind of f*#k*ng dumb actually that they were never called on it, though we all know the reasons why they weren't.

Jonathan Silber said...

...urbanists and local policy makers might be better off refocusing their efforts away from the unachievable ideal of diverse and cohesive neighborhoods and toward creating cohesion across the various neighborhoods that make up a city.

And the rest of us would be better off if "urbanists," local policy makers, and other such presumptuous busybodies would mind their own business while leaving it to their fellow men to associate with others or not as each sees fit.

Really, all these busybodies who, despite their pretensions to being tolerant, refuse to practice live and let live, working instead to force their preferences down the throats of others, are a pox on the rest of humanity and unfit to live in a free society.

Anonymous said...

What was it Peter Griffin said...oh yeah, "Florida: America's Wang"

Anonymous said...

Nobody wants to say he favors "segregation," but a phrase like "a patchwork of cohesive neighborhoods" would roll off a candidate's tongue pretty well and is no more anodyne and vacuous than it has to be.

"Localism" has a positive connotation. Encourage localism to build cohesive neighborhoods then bridge those neighborhoods to create a vibrant metropolitan mosaic. The alternative is a melting pot that keeps getting browner.

ben tillman said...

...urbanists and local policy makers might be better off refocusing their efforts away from the unachievable ideal of diverse and cohesive neighborhoods and toward creating cohesion across the various neighborhoods that make up a city.

And if this is true, doesn't it stand to reason that national policymakers should refocus their efforts away from the unachievable ideal of diverse and cohesive "nations" and toward creating cohesion across the various nations that make up the world?

d..... said...

"Or thugs from Harlem team up with thugs from Washington Heights to go downtown and play knockout on honky pedestrians."

This person doesn't know NYC. Dominicans and blacks would never cooperate on anything. And Harlem is now majority non-African American (lots of African-Africans though).

"Charlie Rangel's district is no longer black."

http://politicker.com/2012/02/charlies-angles-will-rangel-see-the-end-of-the-harlem-he-helped-build/

Anonymous said...

"""" "Localism" has a positive connotation. """"

I have a better term, stolen from Josiah Royce...

"wholesome provincialism"

Anonymous said...

“Their patchwork of segregated communities allows for both diversity and cohesion. We usually view segregation as problematic, but when it comes in the form of a patchwork of neighborhoods and enclaves that each have their own character, it may actually ‘work.’”

Woah, Neal, that's getting pretty close to "separate but equal" and we know how that crimethink plays out.

Anonymous said...

> fashionable geographer Richard Florida (or, as I call him to minimize confusion with the state of Florida, "Dr. Vibrant")

And yet you have no problem writing about a football player whose real name appears to be "Incognito"? I was about halfway down the comments thread for that article before I finally figured that one out.

slumber_j said...

C.f. the Schelling Segregation Model, which Thomas Schelling concocted using a chess board and coins in the 1970s: http://www2.econ.iastate.edu/tesfatsi/demos/schelling/schellhp.htm.

It's not as though nobody's thought about this before.

Stilicho said...

Diversity: it's why we can't have nice things.

Bill said...

Our squid overlords are tired of blacks and are gradually edging towards throwing them under the bus?

pat said...

While looking for something else on YouTube yesterday I stumbled across an interview with Charles Murray about his then recent book "Coming Apart". For about forty minutes he gave examples of the decline in American Social Capital.

It was very depressing. He's like Mark Steyn - a wonderful writer whose books I will no longer read - because they portray a future that I cannot bear.

Albertosaurus

hanktheheretic said...

"The answer is simple - we adopt a shared intellectual culture - not a biological based culture dominated by tribal nations, race, and gender.

The ideals of Christian Western philosophy are intellectual in nature - they prescribe non-destructive behavior that will work for any human being - regardless of race, nation, or gender.

The homogeneous ideals of hope, and respect for life, and love, and truth, and forgiveness -- work for everyone. One does not even have to believe in God to use them to better their life and their culture’s life.

Humanity has NO choice but to adopt these ideals - they are the engine of humanities future."

Yea, good luck with that.

All those lovely ideas came from a very White and a very homogeneous Europe. I'm sure it will catch on just as well for Somalians in Minnesota or those vibrant latinos in LA.

Matthew said...

One thing to note is the Left's attitude towards diversity in the West compared to its views on diversity in Africa. In the West, diversity is supposedly the font of goodness and light; the engine that makes our countries run.

In Africa? One of the most common explanations for the failure of post-colonial African states is that get this - their former European masters threw too many incompatible, unfriendly tribes together - so of course they were destined to fail. Nevermind that those hostile tribes were culturally far more similar than Latinos or Chinese or SOuth Asians are to Americans or Aussies or Brits.

Silver said...

Matthew, that was an excellent point about Africa. I would throw that in their face this way: "So what you're saying is that too much diversity is unworkable. Too much diversity, in a word, sucks." Real leftists won't be moved by your logic because it's never, ever been about "truth" for those bastards. But hopefully the unsuspecting victims of the left's preposterous nonsense will begin to see through it.