Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Professor Putnam: hunkering after diversity

What effect does ethnic diversity really have on society? Professor Robert Putnam of Harvard University set out to discover the answer in a recently published research project.

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?


  1. He may have shied back from the obvious conclusions, but his research is nevertheless sufficiently "dangerous" to cost him a lot of grief. I wish him well and hope the right people are watching.

  2. Francis, I wanted to keep the initial post short, so I didn't much go into Professor Putnam's politics.

    He is actually quite a politically correct liberal. It's a credit to his objectivity that he should publish research which runs so counter to liberal political positions.

    Even so, he sticks with "diversity" as a principle, despite the findings of his own research.

    I'll discuss this in more detail in the next entry.

  3. Of course he sticks with "diversity" as a principle. Liberalism starts with Ideas, not Realities, and if a Reality conflicts with an Idea, we all know which must give. Eventually he will end up in la-la land with some cockamamie "solution" to make diversity work the way his Idea says it must.

  4. As an author once told me regarding liberalism/feminism:

    "If the facts don't fit the program comrads; then the facts must be mistaken."


  5. Prof. Putnam's research conclusions are quite interesting, I had seen them before, and they gel with my own personal experience.

  6. I stumbled on this site recently, so my comments are now possibly somewhat dated. However, in this case what struck me is that the good professor's study indicates no increase in racial strife due to diversity. That seems decidedly odd, if not downright false. I wonder just exactly how he defined "conflict". The news that we actually see here in the US is composed of occurences every day of crimes by blacks on whites, hispanic on black, black on hispanic, etc. Based on the cute tricks pulled by our various local police forces, only when it is a white on black crime do they report that it is racially motivated. I suspect that Putnam also employs this same statistical lie for his own studies, since it supports the standard kneejerk progressive narratives.


  7. Just found your site. What a breath of fresh air.

    Your article, 'hunkering after diversity', rings so true on the anomie part; I live in Southern Calif., I am a white women who is now a minority in the town she lives in. And I am LONELY. Yes, I have family and friends, but I'm tired of struggling with people who have no intention of fitting in.
    I am moving to a FAR whiter, more American state soon.

  8. Whisker child,

    Thank you and I hope your move works out well.