Creative Destruction

October 10, 2006

Diversity Destroys Trust, Study Says

Filed under: Race and Racism — Robert @ 3:46 pm

An interesting study by Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam (author of “Bowling Alone”) finds that the more ethnically diverse a community is, the lower the level of trust in the community – even trust between members of the same ethnic group. Putnam is not anti-diversity and notes that immigration is beneficial for countries that send and receive immigrants. However, his study finds that “in the presence of diversity, we hunker down…[w]e 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.”

Common sense to conservatives, probably a very distressing revelation for many liberals. Putnam believes that the answer to this problem is not assimilation, but cultural adjustment by majorities. “What we shouldn’t do is to say that they [immigrants] should be more like us. We should construct a new us.”

Pass.

16 Comments »

  1. Bob Hayes wrote:

    Common sense to conservatives, probably a very distressing revelation for many liberals.

    Yeah, drive that wedge, because the best way to frame the issue is juxtaposing conservatives and liberals. Um, not.

    I agree that it’s common sense that groups “not like us,” whichever way “us” is construed, by definition have different interests and agendas that would afford them less trust than those from within a group. How “trust” is defined or measured as separate, for instance, from mere conflict of interest, isn’t stated in the MSM Money article. I suspect the full report of the study doesn’t leave such an important elemental assumption up for grabs.

    It all enters the political arena when diversity, a culturally approved attribute, is revealed to have negative side effects. But then, almost every attribute has pros and cons, so someone will always be dissatisfied or disenfranchised. My understanding is that we Americans are encouraged to embrace diversity (even at the expense of some level of trust, it turns out) in the interest of reducing discrimination, among other things. That it comes with mixed results doesn’t wholly invalidate the policy.

    Comment by Brutus — October 10, 2006 @ 4:56 pm | Reply

  2. Meanwhile, Richard Florida, author of “The Rise of the Creative Class”, finds that diverse communities tend to have more economic growth, while homogeneous communities tend to be economically stagnant.

    Homogeneous communities tend to stifle the new ideas critical to a healthy economy.

    Comment by ohwilleke — October 11, 2006 @ 1:29 am | Reply

  3. I think Florida is on the right track. I’m not trying to drive a wedge, Brutus, I just think it’s interesting. There is a definite tension between the things which bring wealth and prosperity and the things which bring cultural stability and tolerable-ness. We’re fighting a rather large war right now because there is a big chunk of the world that finds the consequences of Western wealth and liberalism to be personally intolerable.

    Comment by Robert — October 11, 2006 @ 1:54 am | Reply

  4. it all enters the political arena when diversity, a culturally approved attribute, is revealed to have negative side effects. But then, almost every attribute has pros and cons, so someone will always be dissatisfied or disenfranchised. My understanding is that we Americans are encouraged to embrace diversity (even at the expense of some level of trust, it turns out) in the interest of reducing discrimination, among other things. That it comes with mixed results doesn’t wholly invalidate the policy.

    I’d like to see the evidence of your theory that diversity reduces discrimination.

    I keep hearing these “multiculturalism is obviously valuable even though there may be problems with it” -claims that never really manage to explain what is so great about diversity and multiculturalism.

    Homogeneous communities tend to stifle the new ideas critical to a healthy economy.

    Which is of course why the economy of, say, Japan is so uncreative.

    Comment by Tuomas — October 11, 2006 @ 2:26 am | Reply

  5. Well, he did say “tend”, Tuomas.

    Comment by Robert — October 11, 2006 @ 3:19 am | Reply

  6. FWIW, Japan has been in one of the most extended slumps any industrialized economy has seen since the U.S. Great Depression.

    Even at zero interest rates, it has had a very hard time getting anyone to borrow money or invest in the economy — everyone seems to be socking their money away in postal accounts, their equivalent of an FDIC, non-interest bearing checking account, and is deathly afraid of any level of debt.

    While its elementary and secondary education systems are very solid, its higher education system is seriously lacking.

    Japanese big business is also characterized by a very slow decision making process, due to diffuse authority in the organization, although arguably it has a more rational process than is found in the U.S. economy.

    The Japanese economy is also much more regulated than the U.S. economy (although the methods of doing so are very different).

    Fukayama’s praise of its economy, in his book “Trust” turned out to be a bit ill timed, as it was released just as the slump was becoming clear.

    Some of Japan’s growth in the 20th century is attributable to the same phenomena we see in China now. China’s economic growth rocks, and this certainly has little to do with the overall optimal nature of its economic system. It is simply easier to catch up, than to grow a well developed economy from scratch.

    Another big factor in Japan’s prosperity is its very low defense spending relative to the size of its economy and the level of genuine threats to national security it faces from the Russians, North Koreans and Chinese.

    Nominal dollars certainly don’t tell the whole story in Japan. The cost of living is very high. Housing, food, vehicles and more are dreadfully expensive.

    Now, this doesn’t mean that Japan is a bad place to live. It has very little crime, and has a very egalitarian distribution of wealth. Its urban living has a relatively low environmental impact.

    But, all of those factors are good reasons to doubt the future economic growth prospects of Japan, despite important innovations that its economy (of 120 million people) has produced.

    Comment by ohwilleke — October 11, 2006 @ 3:31 am | Reply

  7. And Korea. And Taiwan. And Finland. China is following up.

    I suppose if exception proves the rule, then multiple exceptions must make the rule really strong.

    USA isn’t the world, and quite frankly, I think the strong economy there has lot more to do with good* economic policies and lots and lots of resources, and an advantageous geopolitical location. (edited to add: Of course that’s not all there is to it, the people and culture matter a lot, but diversity probably isn’t the biggest contributor)

    * Or at least not totally fucked up, like in Soviet Union.

    So I’m not buying it even with the tend -part.

    Comment by Tuomas — October 11, 2006 @ 3:34 am | Reply

  8. But, all of those factors are good reasons to doubt the future economic growth prospects of Japan, despite important innovations that its economy (of 120 million people) has produced.

    We’ll see. In about, say 30 years, it remains to be seen whether multicultural utopias like Netherlands and France will overtake Japan. Want to bet?

    It ought to be remembered that Japan started industrialization and building a major economy lot later than Western powers.

    And diversity wasn’t part of the recipe.

    Comment by Tuomas — October 11, 2006 @ 3:38 am | Reply

  9. I wonder if Florida and Putnam are talking about different kinds of diversity. It could be that Putnam’s data were driven by diversity in lower-class neighborhoods, while Florida’s were driven by the presence of educated Indian and Chinese immigrants. It says that Putnam controlled for income, but not having seen the paper, I’m not sure exactly what that means.

    Comment by Brandon Berg — October 11, 2006 @ 5:21 am | Reply

  10. Another big factor in Japan’s prosperity is its very low defense spending relative to the size of its economy and the level of genuine threats to national security it faces from the Russians, North Koreans and Chinese.

    Are you saying that having a low defense budget is obviously beneficial to the economy? They tend to vary from 0.5 % to 4 % or so, thus the effect probably isn’t huge.

    And of course, the key phrase is “relative to the size of its economy”. According to CIA World Factbook, Japan spends about 1% of it’s GDP to defense, for a total of $44.31 billion.

    Russia is not available.

    China spends 4.3 %, for a total of $81.48 billion.

    The Great Boogeyman North Korea* spends an unspecified percentage for a total of whopping 5 billion.

    In contrast, India, that actually has a land border with China (and Pakistan) spends 2.5 %, for a total of $19.04 billion.

    Considering Japan is an island, and the fact that Japanese military buildup post-WW2 was discouraged by the US** (who correspondingly has interests in the area), I don’t think the Japanese military is insufficient. It won’t compete with the superpowers in the “our military has a bigger penis than your military” -contest, but 44.31 billion dollars, about nine times as much as NK, is hardly insignificant.

    * = With nukes, yes, because it is erratic enough to possibly use them.

    ** = My memory of this part of history isn’t perfect, though.

    Comment by Tuomas — October 11, 2006 @ 5:34 am | Reply

  11. Bob Hayes wrote:

    I’m not trying to drive a wedge, Brutus, I just think it’s interesting. There is a definite tension between the things which bring wealth and prosperity and the things which bring cultural stability and tolerable-ness.

    OK. I’m probably responding too reflexively to arguments pitting one side against another, which is a weak and inapplicable strategy much of the time. So I’ll take you at your word that you’re observing tension, but I still don’t think it breaks on the political divide.

    More Bob Hayes:

    We’re fighting a rather large war right now because there is a big chunk of the world that finds the consequences of Western wealth and liberalism to be personally intolerable.

    I don’t agree that we’re fighting this war solely because they don’t like or agree with us. But that’s a very different thread I will let pass without further comment.

    Tuomas writes:

    I’d like to see the evidence of your theory that diversity reduces discrimination.

    Please go back and reread what I wrote. There is nothing there to suggest the cause and effect you ask me to defend. If you still object, I’ll parse the sentence more finely for you.

    Comment by Brutus — October 11, 2006 @ 11:58 am | Reply

  12. I hate to point this out, but diversity might reduce irrational trust (see also here) by forcing people to think. (This in itself could benefit America, especially if it extends to politics.) The claim that it reduces trust even among members of one ethnic group certainly points in that direction.

    Comment by hf — October 11, 2006 @ 1:18 pm | Reply

  13. Please go back and reread what I wrote. There is nothing there to suggest the cause and effect you ask me to defend.

    Sorry, you didn’t state that, and it isn’t really “your theory”. I’d still like to see it, if anyone happens to know of such findings.

    No need to parse the sentence (or condescend).

    Comment by Tuomas — October 11, 2006 @ 1:58 pm | Reply

  14. My understanding is that we Americans are encouraged to embrace diversity (even at the expense of some level of trust, it turns out) in the interest of reducing discrimination, among other things. That it comes with mixed results doesn’t wholly invalidate the policy.

    The problem is that it is considered politically incorrect to bring up teh cons of diversity; you’re only supposed to bring up the pros.

    And let’s be honest about Prof. Putnam. His position is the classic “hate whites” position: if there is a problem with diversity, the solution is always to force the whites to give up something (i.e. their culture).

    Comment by Glaivester — October 20, 2006 @ 5:12 pm | Reply

  15. […] Could it be that the leftist government of Britain is slipping from it’s typical Political Correctness and is forgetting to pretend that multicultularism is good, immigrants are “an asset” (even, or especially, uneducated third-worlders), and multiethnicity “enriches” the society, and instead admitting something that I could have told them straight up: That multicultularism/diversity destroys trust and further, that multiethnicity is socioeconomical pain in the ass that makes a neighborhood less desirable (let’s not forget: This is what the law says.) […]

    Pingback by British Government Sure Is Smart « Creative Destruction — November 9, 2006 @ 4:28 pm | Reply

  16. The problem is that it is considered politically incorrect to bring up teh cons of diversity; you’re only supposed to bring up the pros.

    And, what’s more, you aren’t supposed to challenge the so-called pros.

    Comment by Tuomas — November 11, 2006 @ 12:39 pm | Reply


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