June 17, 2007

NYT closing gap with American Conservative: In the New York Times Magazine, Erica Goode, science editor of the NYT, writes about Robert D. Putnam's research on diversity and trust (which was the subject of my January 15, 2007 cover story "Fragmented Future" in AmCon):


Home Alone

For decades, students of American society have offered dueling theories about how encountering racial and ethnic diversity affects the way we live. One says that simple contact — being tossed into a stew of different cultures, values, languages and styles of dress — is likely to nourish tolerance and trust. Familiarity, in this view, trumps insularity. Others argue that just throwing people together is rarely enough to breed solidarity: when diversity increases, they assert, people tend to stick to their own groups and distrust those who are different from them.

But what if diversity had an even more complex and pervasive effect? What if, at least in the short term, living in a highly diverse city or town led residents to distrust pretty much everybody, even people who looked like them? What if it made people withdraw into themselves, form fewer close friendships, feel unhappy and powerless and stay home watching television in the evening instead of attending a neighborhood barbecue or joining a community project?

This is the unsettling picture that emerges from a huge nationwide telephone survey by the famed Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam and his colleagues. “Diversity seems to trigger not in-group/out-group division, but anomie or social isolation,” Putnam writes in the June issue of the journal Scandinavian Political Studies. “In colloquial language, people living in ethnically diverse settings appear to ‘hunker down’ — that is, to pull in like a turtle.”

In highly diverse cities and towns like Los Angeles, Houston and Yakima, Wash., the survey found, the residents were about half as likely to trust people of other races as in homogenous places like Fremont, Mich., or rural South Dakota, where, Putnam noted, “diversity means inviting a few Norwegians to the annual Swedish picnic.”


Goode's article reflects a lot of the usual class prejudices:


The public discourse on diversity runs at a high temperature. Told by one side, the narrative of how different ethnic and racial groups come together in schools, workplaces, churches and shopping centers can sound as if it was lifted from “Sesame Street.” Told by the other, it often carries the shrill tones of a recent caller to a radio talk show on immigration reform: “The school my kid goes to is 45 percent Mexican,” he said, “and I don’t see this as being a good thing for this country. Do we want to turn into a Latin American country?”


Obviously, anyone who would worry about this is the kind of radio talk show-listening racist loser who has to send his kid to a school that is 45 percent Mexican. The right sort of New York Times-reading person supports the minority outreach program at his child's school whose long term goal is to double the Mexican enrollment ... from two percent to four percent.


Diversity has clear benefits, [Putnam] says, among them economic growth and enhanced creativity — more top-flight scientists, more entrepreneurs, more artists.


As we can see from the way the 30 million Mexican-Americans have been sweeping the Nobel Prizes! Thank God lots of Mexicans have moved to New York City recently, or the place would have remained bereft of scientists, entrepreneurs, and artists, unlike vibrant creative communities like El Paso.

Aren't social scientists supposed to understand that correlation is not proof of causation? Clearly, the illegal immigrants (as well as the artists) follow the wealth-creating scientists and entrepreneurs, not the other way around.


But the diversity finding was so surprising that Putnam said his first thought was that maybe something was wrong with the data. He and his research team spent five years testing other explanations. Maybe people in more diverse areas had less political clout and thus fewer amenities, like playgrounds and pothole-free streets, putting them in a misanthropic mood; or maybe diversity caused “hunkering down” only in people who were older or richer or white or female. But the effect did not go away. When colleagues who heard about the results protested, “I bet you haven’t thought about X” — a frequent occurrence, Putnam said — the researchers went back and looked at X.

The idea that it is diversity (the researchers used the census’s standard racial categories to define diversity) that drives social capital down has its critics. Among them is Steven Durlauf, an economist at the University of Wisconsin and a critic of Putnam’s past work, who said he thinks some other characteristic, as yet unidentified, explains the lowered trust and social withdrawal of people living in diverse areas. But without clear evidence to the contrary, Putnam says, he has to believe the conclusion is solid.


Many decades ago, I used to run into Steve Durlauf of Burbank H.S. all the time at high school speech and debate tournaments, where he would beat me like a drum. I wasn't terribly good at forensics because I'm not that orally fluent, but even at what I was good at, Durlauf was much better. I don't know if he was the most successful debater in Southern California of his era, but he's the one who most deserved to be. He's just a lot smarter than me. And he's a nice guy, too.

So, why does Prof. Durlauf come out sounding kind of dim on this topic compared to me? Because political correctness lowers your effective IQ. Truths are connected to other truths, so if you are willing to follow the truth wherever it goes, you'll make a lot more progress than if you put up big "Can't Go There" signs in your own head.


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

16 comments:

Peter said...

I actually live in Yakima and am a little bit giddy that we made the NYT in the same breath as LA and Houston, (albeit for the wrong reasons.) And the town is indeed loathed amongst most of the youth "because there's nothing to do except get STD's or go to the movies." :) It seems like most of the honors student types want to head for the west side of the State as soon as they can. This self-loathing towards the town seems especially pronounced amongst the chic liberal set who when coaxed as to what they actually like about town would probably instinctively say "diversity." Although I attend a predominantly Mexican high school I don't feel very frightened of them, which is not true of the old-timers, I think almost the entirety of the non-farming or non-liberal White community is opposed to their being here and the letters to the editor section seems to confirm this.

Anonymous said...

Steve --

It all comes down to status. Being viewed as "racist" or whatever is a mark of low-status. Since the entire name of the game of the elite is the relentless pursuit of status, it's a no-brainer as to why the good Professor is dim when it comes to diversity equaling a low trust environment where people hunker down and creativity does not occur.

You can see the relentless pursuit of status among the elites by the cars they drive (Volvo, Audi, BMW, etc. being high-status and boring old Fords and Chevys being low-status). The places they shop (Trader Joes not Vons or Albertsons). Where they look for mates (cool coffeehouses and clubs). How they display their status at work (artfully hip designer jeans and shirts).

Status affects not just mating but work, income, social opportunities, so it's no surprise elites miss this completely. Meanwhile their real behavior is telling. They don't marry or befriend Blacks or Hispanics much. It's all about differentiating themselves from the lower-class Whites.

Often what they call diversity is a collection of young white people in cities from all over the country looking for mates. These areas tend to attract cultural centers because they are also the haunts of rich people who can pay lots of money for expensive cultural pursuits. But places like NYC are conducive only to the Arts (depending on rich patrons) and not other innovations. That's "diversity" as seen in the Arts and mating dances of young people in NYC or Chicago etc.

You don't see technical innovation in places like NYC or Chicago, too expensive for shop space and not attractive to those boring engineers who want to raise families. The innovation of places like Atlanta, Dallas, Salt Lake City, etc. is far higher in technology. IBM's personal computer was born in Boca Raton FL for example. You'll see diversity there too, but it's engineers from all over the nation attracted to a place where projects are paying good money.

Anonymous said...

"Status affects not just mating but work, income, social opportunities, so it's no surprise elites miss this completely. Meanwhile their real behavior is telling. They don't marry or befriend Blacks or Hispanics much. It's all about differentiating themselves from the lower-class Whites."

I have noticed this too in Virginia where I see that rural whites tend to get along better with blacks and marry/date them more often than upscale whites in the North East, contrary to the propaganda regarding how "enlightened" Yankees are.

I seen Northeasterners to look down on blacks much more than Southern whites do.

In the North, white liberals of course talk a good game about their love of minorities, but who they actually socialize with shows their true feelings.

In my experience, Italian Americans have especially negative views of blacks.

Old Right

JSBolton said...

'Diversity has clear benefits'?
Really? When did anyone test to see if racial/ethnic diversity itself caused any of these supposed benefits:
economic growth, reading the fine print, did they say per capita, or onlyt that any diversity added on means at least, another body which has needs to add into the gross totals?
Enhanced creativity-from diversity itself? Would this stand being measured by patents granted, adjusting for population size in a state?
More top-flight scientists- from being pro-diversity, which is anti-merit both as to quotas and
immigration policy? The Congo has hundreds of languages spoken, but do they publish more scientific papers than Luxembourg? Likewise the tropical nations with diversity of language and race/ethnicity more than what is generally found in the world.
More entrepeneurs- not when adjusted for size of population.
More artists-greater diversity could perhaps increase the anti-artists' share. loss of community of values favors fraudulent substitutes therefor.

JSBolton said...

I wonder if people notice how these writers set up a false dilemma of being either anti-diversity or valuing it. Putnam says:
"...people like me, who are in favor of diversity...".
He doesn't say diversity is good, the more of it, the better.
That would be too explicit and easily refuted.
Instead we get an insinuation that there are those who neither accept the fact of diversity, nor place positive value on it.
This leaves out the more reasonable position, of accepting the fact of diversity without valuing diversity itself, much less each additional increment of it.
The result is a smear, where all criticisms of diversity-valorization get called 'anti-diversity'.
Hopefully, Putnam is a dupe of such rhetoric, because he seems rather more honest than many other scholars covering these subjects.

dearieme said...

"political correctness lowers your effective IQ": worth its place in collections of apophthegms. Also explains The State of the Universities pretty well.

mepo said...

I think many of the commenters are making too much of the proof-of-status angle of expressed beliefs. Many people really do believe in racial/cultural diversity as an ideal. It's painful for them to acknowledge that it doesn't work out the way they expected. I've watched people wrestle with this, I've wrestled with it myself, and it's not just a matter of accepting lower status.

If you spend your whole childhood being told "we're all equal," it's painful to discover that we're not. It's even worse, because you also spend your whole childhood being told that anyone who disagrees with these ideas is evil. And then you start bashing your head agaisnt evidence that forces you to take on the "evil" beliefs, too.

I doubt this is any easier that losing the faith you were raised with, or recognizing that America's place in history isn't quite as shining and beautiful as you were raised to believe.

Anonymous said...

Anon says:


The innovation of places like Atlanta, Dallas, Salt Lake City, etc. is far higher in technology. IBM's personal computer was born in Boca Raton FL for example. You'll see diversity there too, but it's engineers from all over the nation attracted to a place where projects are paying good money.


Heh. I work in Mountain View.

Lots of diversity and innovation there. However, the diversity mostly consists of whites, Indians (from India), Chinese, Koreans and Japanese ... oh, and lots of women, but, you know, the predators go where the prey is.

Anonymous said...

My own personal experience growing up and living as an adult in San Francisco is that while immigrants are isolated for the reasons you'd expect, white people isolate because they feel bad about doing things only for white people, but then they get tired of being rebuffed when they make overtures to their distrustful neighbors. Easier to stay home than to navigate the cognitive dissonance.

Alex said...

"Diversity has clear benefits, [Putnam] says, among them economic growth and enhanced creativity — more top-flight scientists, more entrepreneurs, more artists."

I don’t even understand what this is supposed to mean.

Are they saying that the percentage of scientists/entrepreneurs/artists goes up with diversity? If so

-do they mean that one or more of the groups that make for the diversity raises the percentage: eg, an all-white community with 5% artists becomes a white-black community with 10% artists? But then it’s the blacks that make for “more artists”, not diversity.

-do they mean the that the combination of groups creats a frission that wouldn’t be there if the groups were apart: eg, an all-white community is 5% artist and an all-black community is 5% artist, but a black-white community is 10% artist?

Or are they saying that the absolute number of scientists/entrepreneurs/artists goes up with diversity? If so is it the diversity or just more people? And if the more people have to be a different racial group, is it not just that racial group that has more scientists etc than the others would?

The claim about diversity’s benefits, far from being “clear”, is only comprehensible as a short-term justification for diversity that sounds superficially like it means something but is just intended to hold off deeper questions about it until the diversity proponent has worked out a more elaborate justification.

ben tillman said...

One [theory] says that simple contact — being tossed into a stew of different cultures, values, languages and styles of dress — is likely to nourish tolerance and trust.

No, Erica Goode, that is not the theory. The theory is that some sort of synthesis will occur like the one that made "Cablinasian" Tiger Woods the world's greatest golfer. I have never heard of anyone -- no matter how untethered from reality -- making the claim that diversity "nourish[es] tolerance and trust."

Wow.

ben tillman said...

Although I attend a predominantly Mexican high school I don't feel very frightened of them, which is not true of the old-timers....

I have news for you, Peter. The old-timers aren't frightened of them, either. They simply recognize that the Mexicans are taking things that belong to the oldtimers and their community.

fifi said...

Most people who are idealistic about diversity seem to see it in a very superficial way, no deeper than skin color. Isn't it wonderful to see people in a variety of hues getting along like members of the same happy family?

The reality is that we have all developed subtle cues in the form of body language and elliptical references to shared beliefs, values and experiences that make it easier for us to interact with someone from our own culture than with strangers, even though those strangers may speak the same language.

Who you are allowed to approach, what you are allowed to talk about, the relative signficance of being invited into another person's home, the fact that people who are racially very similar might belong to ethnic or religious communities that are in conflict, the pitfalls of interacting with someone of the opposite sex are all variables that might cause a person to avoid interacting with strangers.

Thanks to our immigration policies, these hordes of foreigners are often unaware of the cultural norms of their new homeland which can make interacting with them almost as dangerous as walking into a country you know nothing about and expecting everything to work out because you are a friendly person.

JSBolton said...

Just to illustrate how unexamined the
'diversity has clear benefits...economic
growth... enhanced creativity...more...scientists...entrepeneurs
...artists' notion would be: consider
what the reaction would be to
to the contrary formulation.
'Homogeneity has clear benefits...
econ. growth... extra creativity...
more top scientists, entrepeneurs, artists etc.'
Or further out, how would they
just leave uncriticized such a statement as:
'Racial homogeneity has clear
b.; econ. growth, extra c., more top s's, e's and a's...'

Sideways said...

No, Erica Goode, that is not the theory. The theory is that some sort of synthesis will occur like the one that made "Cablinasian" Tiger Woods the world's greatest golfer. I have never heard of anyone -- no matter how untethered from reality -- making the claim that diversity "nourish[es] tolerance and trust."
I've heard multiple people claim that it nourishes tolerance and trust. Had a lot of ex-hippy humanity professors in college. that idea is out there.

Anthony said...

Steve - do you have a link, or even an actual title for the Putnam paper? I've been unable to locate the actual paper, despite looking at the story and at Putnam's web page, and I have a few questions which may be dumb questions.