He found that ethnic diversity doesn't create conflict, nor does it foster increased trust of outsiders. Instead, it is associated with anomie - a condition in which individuals become increasingly socially isolated and purposeless.
Professor Putnam reports in his study that an increase in diversity leads to a decrease in social solidarity:
The evidence that diversity and solidarity are negatively correlated comes from many different settings. (p.142)
He finds that trust between different ethnic groups is highest when there is less ethnic diversity:
Inter-racial trust is relatively high in homogeneous South Dakota and relatively low in heterogeneous San Francisco or Los Angeles. The more ethnically diverse the people we live around, the less we trust them ...
... The differences across our 41 sites are very substantial in absolute terms. In highly diverse Los Angeles or San Francisco, for example, roughly 30 percent of the inhabitants say that they trust their neighbours 'a lot', whereas in the ethnically homogeneous communities of North and South Dakota, 78-80 percent of the inhabitants say the same. In more diverse communities, people trust their neighbours less. (pp.147-148)
The result of living in a more diverse community, though, is not increased bonding with your own ethnic group. In diverse areas, people withdraw into social isolation:
Diversity seems to trigger not in-group/out-group division, but anomie or social isolation. In colloquial language, people living in ethnically diverse settings appear to "hunker down" - that is, to pull in like a turtle. (p.149)
Some of the more specific consequences of this hunkering down include:
- fewer close friends
- less happiness and lower perceived quality of life
- more time spent watching TV
- lower likelihood of giving to charity or volunteering (pp.149-150)
Professor Putnam goes on to explain that:
Diversity does not produce ‘bad race relations’ or ethnically-defined group hostility, our findings suggest. Rather, inhabitants of diverse communities tend to withdraw from collective life, to distrust their neighbours, regardless of the colour of their skin, to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more, but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television. (pp.150-151)
The negative effect of diversity holds true for women as well as men and for liberals as well as conservatives:
Diversity seems to affect men and women equally, though with minor variation across different indicators of sociability. The impact of diversity on sociability seems somewhat greater among conservatives, but it is significant among liberals, too. (P.154)
Similarly, the alienating effects of diversity are apparent across different age groups:
We initially suspected that the effects of diversity might be greater for older generations raised in a less multicultural era, whereas younger cohorts would be less discombobulated by diversity ... However, every successively older cohort from age 30 to age 90 showed essentially equal effects, so Americans raised in the 1970s seem fully as unnerved by diversity as those raised in the 1920s. (p.155)
Nor does economic inequality account for the negative effects of diversity:
we have been able to discover no significant interactive effects between economic inequality and ethnic diversity – that is, our core finding that diversity produces hunkering is equally true both in communities with great economic disparities and in those that are relatively egalitarian. (p.157)
So, if ethnic diversity tends to create, in Professor Putnam's own words, "paranoid, television-watching introverts" and if it decreases solidarity, happiness, friendship and trust, mightn't we then at least consider the idea that it's something to discourage?
Perhaps there is good cause to reconsider the programs of mass immigration into Western countries, which are the main drivers of increased ethnic diversity.
Professor Putnam himself won't consider what would seem to be the logical conclusion to draw from his study. I'll discuss his refusal in my next post.
Part 2: What really drives Putnam?