January 5, 2007

"Fragmented Future"

Fractured FutureMy long cover story in the January 15, 2007 issue of The American Conservative is now online. Here's an excerpt:

"In the presence of [ethnic] diversity, we hunker down. 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." -- Harvard professor Robert D. Putnam

It was one of the more irony-laden incidents in the history of celebrity social scientists.

While in Sweden to receive a $50,000 academic prize as political science professor of the year, Harvard's Robert D. Putnam, a former Carter administration official who made his reputation writing about the decline of social trust in America in his bestseller Bowling Alone, confessed to Financial Times columnist John Lloyd that his latest research discovery -- that ethnic diversity decreases trust and co-operation in communities -- was so explosive that for the last half decade he hadn't dared announce it "until he could develop proposals to compensate for the negative effects of diversity, saying it 'would have been irresponsible to publish without that.'"

In a column headlined "Harvard study paints bleak picture of ethnic diversity," Lloyd summarized the results of the largest study ever of "civic engagement," a survey of 26,200 people in 40 American communities: "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.'"

Lloyd noted, "Prof Putnam found trust was lowest in Los Angeles, 'the most diverse human habitation in human history.'"

As if to prove his own point that diversity creates minefields of mistrust, Putnam later protested to the Harvard Crimson that the Financial Times essay left him feeling betrayed, calling it "by two degrees of magnitude, the worst experience I have ever had with the media." To Putnam's horror, hundreds of "racists and anti-immigrant activists" sent him e-mails congratulating him for finally coming clean about his findings.

Lloyd stoutly stood by his reporting, and Putnam couldn't cite any mistakes of fact, just a failure to accentuate the positive. It was "almost criminal," Putnam grumbled, that Lloyd had not sufficiently emphasized the spin that he had spent five years concocting...

But what primarily drove down L.A.'s rating in Putnam's 130-question survey were the high levels of distrust displayed by Hispanics. While no more than 12 percent of L.A.'s whites said they trusted other races "only a little or not at all," 37 percent of L.A.'s Latinos distrusted whites. And whites were the most reliable in Hispanic eyes. Forty percent of Latinos doubted Asians, 43 percent distrusted other Hispanics, and 54 percent were anxious about blacks. ...

The problems caused by diversity can be partly ameliorated, but the handful of techniques that actually work generally appall liberal intellectuals, so we hear about them only when they come under attack. ...

Another untold story is the beneficial effect on race relations of the growth of Christian fundamentalism. Among soldiers and college football players, for instance, co-operation between the races is up due to an increased emphasis on a common transracial identity as Christians.

According to military correspondent Robert D. Kaplan of The Atlantic, "The rise of Christian evangelicalism had helped stop the indiscipline of the Vietnam-era Army." And that has helped build bridges among the races. Military sociologists Charles C. Moskos and John Sibley Butler wrote in All That We Can Be: Black Leadership and Racial Integration the Army Way, "Perhaps the most vivid example of the 'blackening' of enlisted culture is seen in religion. Black Pentecostal congregations have also begun to influence the style of worship in mainstream Protestant services in post chapels. Sunday worship in the Army finds both the congregation and the spirit of the service racially integrated."

Similarly, it's now common to see college football coaches leading their teams in prayer. Fisher DeBerry, the outstanding coach of the Air Force Academy, who has led players with no hope of making the NFL to a record of 169-108-1, hung a banner in the locker room bearing the Fellowship of Christian Athletes' Competitor's Creed, which begins, "I am a Christian first and last." When the administration found out, he was asked to take it down.

Because policymakers almost certainly won't do what it would take to alleviate the harms caused by diversity -- indeed, they won't even talk honestly about what would have to be done -- it's crazy to exacerbate the problem through more mass immigration. As the issue of co-operation becomes ever more pressing, the quality of intellectual discourse on the topic declines -- as Putnam's self-censorship revealed -- precisely because of a lack of trust due to the mounting political power of "the diverse" to punish frank discussion. [More]

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

Copied from gnxp since I'm too lazy to write something original:
The term "shock therapy" arose from reforms in areas of eastern europe like Poland and Estonia, though it did not become very well known until Russia, but the reforms of Russia were quite different from the places it had been more successful earlier. I don't think a Weberian cultural explanation would be good at explaining the difference between Russia and the other former Soviet countries, but a public choice model could probably work. One of the most interesting comparisons I've seen of Russia and other former Soviet countries in post-Soviet economic performance is Comparing Apples (it's a pdf, not a book I'm encouraging you buy from Amazon) by Peter Leeson and William Trumbull. If you are deathly afraid of graphs, spending too much time reading about Russia or formats other than html, this excerpt from a longer piece by Anders Aslund makes many similar points (though the take-away message is the optimism the other argues against).

Anonymous said...

Steve’s blog piece links to a summary of Putnam’s study as it applies to LA (any links to the original paper?). His AmCon article cites the high level of distrust among Hispanics as the dominate factor lowering LA's overall social trust and civic involvement.

A couple of comment and follow-up questions (perhaps some could be cleared up by links to the original Putnam’s study):

• Latin American countries (Mexico in particular) are corrupt and poorly run societies. Since most of LA’s Hispanic population is Mexican often living in perpetual ethnic enclaves, wouldn’t it be natural for them to maintain their distrust of ex-familia individuals and organizations? Did the study cover and segment other cities or ethnic neighborhoods with immigrants from other broken societies like Haiti, most of Africa, the Middle East, etc? Does this change with the rate of Americanization? Conversely, diversity due to a large infusion of Japanese immigrants may help trust and civic participation.

• It would be interesting to see how much perception gap there is between survey results and quantifiable social indicators of trust and civic involvement such as various crimes, volunteered hours and %income, etc. It’s hard to understand how there is more trust and civic virtue in the homogenous communities of New Orleans, Detroit and DC than in diverse LA unless the original study’s definitions create this discrepancy (e.g. ignore armed robbery but count church participation).

Looking at the map below using transparency/corruption as a proxy for trust and civic involvement, it appears that such things beyond the boundaries of family and tribe are distinctly Western European. Even beyond Western Europe, multicultural countries where Western Europeans predominate like the US, CAN, AUS & NZ are also relatively transparent and corruption free.


This holds true even for the most transparent countries in an otherwise corrupt Latin America and Africa where Western Europeans are most concentrated if but often a minority:

Chile 95% (white+mixed)
Uruguay 88%
So. Africa 22%
Namibia 6%
Botswana 7%.

I thought the last two numbers were small until I realized they were many times higher than most other African countries with correspondingly much worse corruption. Even the stereotypically high IQ countries of Israel, India and NE Asia only match Namibia and Botswana for transparency, so this appears more cultural or sociobiological.

It’s odd to see so many Americans mistakenly believe that our values are the world’s values. And here I was thinking the whites only created war, oppression and depredation wherever they went. After we finally get all the White Devils, they will be sorely missed (as has happened in a few countries already).


Anonymous said...

One clarification:

Chile 95% (white+mixed)
Uruguay 88% (white)
So. Africa 22% (white)
Namibia 6% (white)
Botswana 7% (white)

Source: CIA World Factbook

Finally, I hoped Putnam controlled for the fact that many LA Hispanics in are illegals who would naturally be more distrusting of everyone.


Anonymous said...

Jews have historical and current instigations for distrust of outsiders, and of possible kapos within their ranks; yet they found hospitals, schools and charities of many kinds.
Community of values is an important aspect; but there also may be mobility considerations relative to the increased chance for grab-and-run strategies.
Diversity is a measure also of heightened mobility of populations which not long ago lived vastly further apart.
Hearing different languages spoken around them is not reassuring but disturbing to people; doesn't it allow for nefarious communication?
The hard part is to explain why people do not trust their own sort more, but rather less, as diversity increases around them.
Perhaps those being picked up on as trusting their own kind less as diversity increases locally, are tending to then see a more trusting disposition existing in their group, at the outset, as more treacherous and disadvantageous, as the grab-and-run strategy is favored by the increased mobility which generates the increased diversity.
Maybe also, it could be a case of cognitive dissonance, where those becoming less trusting of some, feel that they must make a general policy of this.
Should one look for genetic influence, on the existence of high trust and high cooperation beyond family, correlating with groups such as NWEuropeans?
If so, the ~1 million DNA unit haplotype block of lactase persistence could be a candidate.
In terms of culture, a merit system allows people of diverse genetic and cultural extremes to cooperate and trust much as if they were relatives.
Too many issues here...

Anonymous said...

I think foreign languanges and cultures are comfortable or not largely depending on the kind of person you are, including both personality and intelligence. I find it pretty cool to be in a place where there are conversations going on in many languages, and a mix of cultures, and all that. But dealing with a mix of cultures imposes a cognitive burden, since you need to keep track of what different things may be expected in different environments. I suspect smarter people and maybe more extroverted people do better in such an environment.

The trust issues appear to me to be based on the same sort of things. When you and I sit down to work out some common action, it works better if we start from similar assumptions about the world.

It's not hard to do this across cultures, when you have some other reason for starting from similar assumptions--going to Catholic Mass in Spanish or German isn't impossibly different from doing it in English, coauthoring an academic paper with someone from Germany or India or Israel isn't impossibly different from doing it with an American, because you're still starting with similar assumptions and goals.

Armies are traditionally a place where different subcultures within a nation can mix together reasonably well, as are sports teams.

Steve's example of a neighborhood project is the other end of this--we all have different assumptions and goals, and so we can't work together very efficiently. We don't share much culture, we don't understand each other, so we're much more likely to give or take offense from our interaction. In such an environment, it's easier to try to be friendly but distant with the neighbors, and solve your own problems. An alarm system may not be any better than a well-run neighborhood watch program, but you'd have to explain the whole concept to your neighborhood, convince them it's a good idea, etc., to get the same benefit as could be had by installing an alarm or buying a big dog.

Anonymous said...

why would you need a study to know this? anybody who lives in a city in the "new" america already knows this.

it's easy to see the change in trust levels happening as a city becomes a random jumble of unrelated humans who have little in common.

as an experiment, go out and notice just how much easier it is to strike up a conversation with a stranger who is the same race as you.

Kint said...

The study that Putnam uses says that people who live in LA for less than 5 years have a level of trust of 29%. People who lived in LA for more than 5 years have a level of trust of 46%, which is in line with the national average. The report further states that people in LA are far more likely to have lived there for less than 5 years. I think Sailer is wrong here - the high level of distrust in LA is more due to "newcomerism" than "multiculturism."

Anonymous said...

Here's a suggestion that Koreans may be using Christianity to improve cooperation: http://iwamatodjishi.com/posts/1167448063.shtml

Anonymous said...

It's not surprising that liberal Harvard sociologists like Robert Putnam would find their multi-ethnicity and public trust findings disturbing. But it's not clear that those who prefer smaller government should be stirred.

Apparently Putnam sat on the results for some time until he could find a suitable liberal policy recommendation. Putnam's subsequent policy recommendation was the need for the state to redouble efforts to generate a new more inclusive identity for all and presumably wash all the old bad identities away.

I can understand why American liberals and European social democrats would find these findings disturbing. They see the state as merely the organic expression of a super-organism called "the community" or "society" or "the nation". Some conservatives buy into worship of the later organism too. All who worship these super-families, should be rattled by this.

And, of course, Putnam's call for the state to generate "a new multicultural man" makes about as much sense, and presumably would be no more successful than Lenin and the Bolsheviks' pursuit of "the New Soviet Man". What a great success that project was. Not!

But Putnam's despair may have a silver lining anyone in the old Jefferson tradition. Distrust and skepticism of the state and authorities are really positive developments. If there was any political lesson of the era from 1914 to 2007 it's that the public and the electorate has shown insufficient skepticism, insufficient distrust of those in power.

Anything that increases that distrust is probably useful. Such an attitude change may be a necessary, if insufficient condition, for a genuine recovery of individualism and self reliance.

So maybe it's those who reject big government liberalism who should be saying "vive la difference!"

Anonymous said...


One value of having hard data for this is that it's easy to be misled by your perceptions, based on stuff like living in an unusual place, or being an unusual person. Hard data helps you sort out the differences between your own perceptions (with whatever cognitive biases go into them, as well as skewed perceptions based on the differences between your situation and everyone else's), and also helps resolve disputes with others who don't share your perceptions.

As a concrete example, how many people support Bush's policy in Iraq? If I looked at my family and friends, who in general are pretty middle-of-the-road politically, I would assume that Bush had about 3% of the country behind him. It's really helpful to have outside polls to tell me how far that is from being true. Otherwise, I might let my own dislike of the man and his policies convince me that nobody supports him.

Anonymous said...


When's this blabbermouth radio host going to let you talk?

Inquiring Mind

Anonymous said...


How come Ziegler wouldn't let you take phone calls? WTF?

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to control for racial and sex-based preferences in hiring,public contracts, etc. I'm still optimistic about making the "melting pot" work, and would like to see a study in which the Democratic Party's "divide and unite" strategy of establishing a racial spoils system (most prevalent in the big cities where that party rules) is considered. As a former municipal attorney, I found that this system encouraged the creation of corporations, ostensibly headed by blacks or women, but in reality controlled from behind the scenes by white men(in one instance, two mob-linked brothers from Brooklyn. That contract turned out to be a real nightmare). Posit: Preferences set people against each other on the basis of race, leading to more distrust.

Anonymous said...

Steve writes: "In the 1990s, the importance of civil society was widely talked up as crucial in transitioning post-Soviet states away from totalitarianism, but the free-market economists’ prescription of “shock therapy” prevailed disastrously in Russia, as gangsters looted the nations’ assets."

I doubt if free market prescriptions had much of any effect on the outcome in Russia or if some sort of civil institution therapy would have had much effect. Every resource rich undeveloped nation turns into a cleptocracy of one sort or another eventually. Find one counterexample. The bottom line in Russia was that there was no responsible govt./security authority and that meant eventual cleptocracy one way or another. While Asian countries which have enjoyed significant growth have had other advantages, not being particularly resource rich probably benefited their development.