The downside of diversity

Boston Globe | Michael Jonas | August 5, 2007

A Harvard political scientist finds that diversity hurts civic life. What happens when a liberal scholar unearths an inconvenient truth?

IT HAS BECOME increasingly popular to speak of racial and ethnic diversity as a civic strength. From multicultural festivals to pronouncements from political leaders, the message is the same: our differences make us stronger. But a massive new study, based on detailed interviews of nearly 30,000 people across America, has concluded just the opposite. Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam — famous for “Bowling Alone,” his 2000 book on declining civic engagement — has found that the greater the diversity in a community, the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work on community projects. In the most diverse communities, neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogenous settings. The study, the largest ever on civic engagement in America, found that virtually all measures of civic health are lower in more diverse settings.

“The extent of the effect is shocking,” says Scott Page, a University of Michigan political scientist.

The study comes at a time when the future of the American melting pot is the focus of intense political debate, from immigration to race-based admissions to schools, and it poses challenges to advocates on all sides of the issues. The study is already being cited by some conservatives as proof of the harm large-scale immigration causes to the nation’s social fabric. But with demographic trends already pushing the nation inexorably toward greater diversity, the real question may yet lie ahead: how to handle the unsettling social changes that Putnam’s research predicts.

“We can’t ignore the findings,” says Ali Noorani, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. “The big question we have to ask ourselves is, what do we do about it; what are the next steps?”

YOUR VIEW: What do you think?

The study is part of a fascinating new portrait of diversity emerging from recent scholarship. Diversity, it shows, makes us uncomfortable — but discomfort, it turns out, isn’t always a bad thing. Unease with differences helps explain why teams of engineers from different cultures may be ideally suited to solve a vexing problem. Culture clashes can produce a dynamic give-and-take, generating a solution that may have eluded a group of people with more similar backgrounds and approaches. At the same time, though, Putnam’s work adds to a growing body of research indicating that more diverse populations seem to extend themselves less on behalf of collective needs and goals.

. . . more


20 thoughts on “The downside of diversity”

  1. While I’m sure these findings are valid, they do not represent a reason for curbing immigration, but a challenge in managing immigration.

    As the inscription on the Statue of Liberty declares, America has always represented a beacon of freedom, a refuge and a place of opportunity for people from the rest of the world. This is part of our heritage and role in the world. It is part of what makes our nation distinctive and great.

    Additionally, immigration is beneficial for the economy, especially with our aging population. Immigration will add to the ranks younger workers who will pay into social security as the baby boomers begin to retire. Not all immigrants are low-skilled workers, they include computer programmers from India, nurses from the Phillipines, engineers from China, and scientists from Russia, all bringing skills we want and need if our economy is to grow and remain competitive.

    It’s natural that people who come from vastly different cultures, and who unfamiliar with our own culture, are going to be a little skittish and stand-offish. The key to remedying that is through outreach and engagement. It’s called being neighborly.

  2. [quote]The key to remedying that is through outreach and engagement.[/quote]

    The dogma of diversity and multiculturism is the opposite of the historical melting pot approach to immigration. With our instituionalized cultural relativism, true assimilation is impossible. If someone can even articulate what it means to be American today, cultural relativism dictates that ‘your culture is equal to ours’. If that’s true, why should the newly arrived immigrant change?

    The statue of liberty rarely quoted in full:

    “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”

    We currently have 1 million immigrants arriving in America every year. Due to Ted Kennedy’s immigration act of 1964, almost 90% of these immigrants come from Asia and third-world countries. Over the last twenty years, we have received more immigrants than the total sum of Irish, Italian, German, and Jews that passed through Ellis Island. Any attempt at analogy between the historic and the modern immigrant waves are inaccurate because of the amount. Between the constant, massive influx of third worlders and the attitude that assimilation is ‘bad’ and ‘oppressive’, don’t be surprised to find yourself living in the Balkans.

    Diversity has never been a strength. The root word of diversity is ‘divide’. I hope we know what is said about a house divided.

  3. Joyce writes: “If someone can even articulate what it means to be American today”

    I thought that, according to Galatians, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one”.

    I don’t think people are complaining about immigration per se. Rather, it seems they’re more concerned about where these immigrants are arriving from. Now, I’m as willing as anyone to reconsider immigration from Middle-Eastern nations and to restrict immigration to bar those who have a likely animosity towards America (I’m tending to agree with Missourian here), but would these complaints be as frequent if the immigrants were coming from, say, Austria or Great Britain? I don’t think so.

    We do, in fact, need to rethink our immigration policies, but this article seems to encourage the notion that because racism and a herd mentality are “natural” to human nature, we should not strive to reject such tendencies in our laws and personal lives. Wasn’t everyone here arguing in another thread that what’s “natural” to humans should be denied and overcome? I’m not sure why this wouldn’t apply here.

  4. JamesK, Come on! Secular sentimentalizing and misrepresentation of Holy Scripture never does any good. I’m assuming you know perfectly well that there is neither Greek nor Jew IN CHRIST! Somehow I doubt that you are proposing a remaking of the United States into a Christian polity.

    Maintaining separateness (diversity) is not the way to reduce racism, in fact, just the opposite thus Balkanization. The NYC public school system is using tax payor dollars to set up “culturally themed” schools, Caribbean, Arabic (Islam), etc. The classes are taught in other than English.

    For assimilation to occur there has to be a dominate culture. We no longer have one, we are committing cultural suicide. Spanish or Arabic, take your pick. It sure won’t be English for much longer.

  5. The Downside of Diversity.

    Three cheers for Christendom.
    This is a Great Article, and makes a compelling arguement as to why it’s Dumb and getting Dumber to have two worldviews trying to simultaneously, grid-lockingly — occupy the same Public Square at the same time. I vote for a return to an all-out, honest-to-goodness Christian Theocratic Republic, and a revival of Christendom lived on a one-story view of the Universe (1-story as explained by Francis Schaeffer, Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey in Total Truth and other places. The watchword is: No false dichotomy between sacred/secular. An example of such seen in the evangellyfish of Salem, Oregon recently) What is Frank Schaeffer speaking out about these days.

    Byzantium, Dean.
    Dean, if you were President, could you beggingly, please return America to the Gold Standard after the manner of the most stable economy in history, over 800 years, Byzantium? It will help Christian families immensely (all families). Studies show the #1 reason for divorce is surprisingly not adultery, but financial pressure. It forces women out of the home when children are small. Just weights & measures – no fiat money. And how would you accomplish that?

    Why do Rush Limbaugh and others exalt the virtues of frustration, I mean “Grid-Lock?” Is it because that is the very best that this present system can attain to: Frustration, or as the writer of this article puts it, in an attempted mixed-community ‘everyone’s in a Malaize.’ He writes:

    Diversity…seems to bring out the Turtle in all of us.

    What an understatement

  6. “People living in ethnically diverse settings appear to ‘hunker down’ — that is, to pull in like a turtle,” Putnam writes.

    Joyce, as to your question

    If someone can even articulate what it means to be American today, cultural relativism dictates that ‘your culture is equal to ours’.

    It’s like a whole bunch of people trying to go through the door all at the same time. I think most just ‘pull in like a turtle’ – and, as has been lamented, our brightest and best (morally speaking) — do not seem to pursue the field of politics.

  7. I would submit that American “cutlure” is not fixed and immutable, but is ever-changing and evolving. Each ethnic group that enters the United States slowly but surely adds their own cultural distinctiveness to the that of the greater group.

    Look at how the foods brought by the various ethnic groups has slowly come to be regarded as American. Germans brought their sausages and they became our hot dogs. The Italians brough Spagetti and Pizza. You can wallk through any shopping mall in America and have a Mexican Burrito, a Japanese Teriyaki Bowl, Chinese Kao Pung Chicken, or Thai Noodles, for example.

    My family ate at Daphe’s Cafe several weeks ago, a new franchised string of Greek-themed restaraunts in California. What struck me was that my daughter and I were the only persons of Greek ancestry in the place. The manager was Hispanic and the employees were all bright, blond-haired kids from the neighbrohood. Then I had an epiphany- the Greek-Americans have been assimilated. They’ve crossed the threshold from immigrant group to native. Gyros and Souvlaki are now regarded as American as the Pizza or the Corn Dog.

  8. Dean, have you seen the biography of Christine Sacorafas? She lived in White Bear Lake, my brother’s city. We’re praying for her and her family.

    Bridge Story. We were traveling to St Paul the week it happened, and saw the news stories on our way. Our 17-yr old wanted to cross Wisconsin into Minnesota at Stillwater, a town near White Bear Lake. So we took the slightly longer route and did just that. Days later the Big Sunday paper came out covering the whole bridge story, and it included a list of the bridges with similar problems to the I-35, with it’s 50:100 sufficiency rating. We read the very bridge we crossed into Stillwater had a 2.8:100 sufficiency rating. 2.8! The worst one in Minnesota. I didn’t have time to research it, but there are problems getting a new bridge in Stillwater because of environmentalists….what could that be about, i’ll find out later.

    Also, you wrote that the government should choose the contractor to build, for example, bridges? One thing Minnesota is doing, they’re not giving the contract to the lowest bidder. I think the governor is voting for a gas tax increase, but I’m a Jason Lewis fan, and think that if they need to find more money (which they don’t, there’s a surplus) — they should take it from pork-programs, like the superfluous Light Rail. It’s interesting, I understand that Jason Lewis opened his Talk Show August 1, the evening of the collapse, with his rant against Light Rail going over the Washington Street Bridge because the infrastructure won’t support it! Then, boom — in an hour or so, the 1-35 bridge goes down.

  9. Nancy writes: “I vote for a return to an all-out, honest-to-goodness Christian Theocratic Republic, and a revival of Christendom lived on a one-story view of the Universe”

    I hope you’re kidding. One only has to look at Geneva under John Calvin or the proposals of the Christian Reconstructionists of today (or life in modern-day Saudi Arabia or Iran) to realize that a theocracy is no safeguard against societal corruption: it only serves as a means to totaliarianism and a corruption of authority. There are good reasons why our Founding Fathers explicitly framed a society where there would be “no establishment of religion”.

    I humbly suggest we stick with it.

  10. All society must be governed by a Standard. I am not talking about John Calvin’s standard, the standard of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the writers of the Westminster Confession, Byzantium’s standard, the seven ecumenical councils or any other group of human beings ‘led by God’ for that matter. I am talking about God’s Standard. Can you improve upon it? John Milton? Samuel Rutherford? Who?

    James, if you were God — how will you improve upon God’s Law-Word? What would you do, tweek it some?

  11. James says:

    Rather, it seems they’re more concerned about where these immigrants are arriving from.

    As someone who lives in a state with one of the highest levels of illegal alien invaders I can speak to this. No concern whatsoever as to where these invaders are from (I wish – then we could talk about Islamic immigration for example). The concern is their flagrant illegality (and now, finally, more talk about the business interests who hire them), their lack of integration, their cost to the rest of society (schools, hospitals, taxes, etc.).

  12. Note 10, Christopher, James, transferring wealth to middle America to Mexican and American elites

    Illegal immigration is a transfer of wealth from low-income and middle income Americans to low-income Mexicans who violate law after law after law to work in the United States.

    The beneficiaries of illegal immigration are:

    business interests who evade minimum wage laws and safety law by using illegals

    the Democratic party who imports povery which support poverty programs
    which support the employment of members of the Democrat party

    Mexican drug lords who are trying to reach their market more easily

    Corrupt Mexican government officials who are freer to maintain their
    corrupt government exploiting the Mexican people they love so much

  13. JamesK, the founders also wrote about “forming a more perfect union” can’t do that under multi-culturalism.

    I agree with you, theocracy is a bad form of government, but so is a secular oligarchy that is hostile to the free expression of religious ideas in forming policy (what we have now). Indeed every form of government human beings have ever created either started out tyrannical or degenerated into tyranny because people are profoundly uncomfortable with freedom and the responsibility that goes with it. The temptations to self-gratification, greed and power by those who rule are enormous and most fall into those temptations which then become institutionalized. Anyone who refuses to be co-opted has a very short political career.

  14. JamesK, patience
    i’ve answered but this: Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Christopher re: Flagrant Illegality.

    Have you seen the book Minutemen: The Battle to Secure America’s Borders, by Dr. Jerome R. Corsi and Jim Gilchrist.

    “We realized there had to be a reason the United States was not securing our borders under President Bush.”

    Reason: A North American Union (like the European Union) will relax the borders in short order anyways — as soon as it’s implemented, that is.

    Clues: George Herbert Walker Bush presidency. We heard him mentioning new-world order, we witnessed a laxadaisical attitude over
    Tiananman Square, & regretfully voted for him anyway. However, in the last three presidential elections we’ve voted with the Constitutional Party. 1996 & 2000 for Howard Phillips, and 2004, Peroutka. Jerome Corsi considered running with the Constitution Party in ’08, but is going, instead, to promote his book alert on the North American Union.

    Phillips says it is “Love Unrequited” (a deep grief to him) that his friend, Patrick Buchanan, chose to try to win via the Republicans in 2000. I still think Patrick Buchanan would be perfect for the Constitution Party. Maybe Patrick Buchanan and Joe Sobran, (or Jason Lewis, Talk Show Favorite 🙂

    In the _Slouching Toward Statism_ thread, a person named “Bob M.” (don’t know him) said this:

    Don’t you think that it’s time we begin pressuring our Congressmen and Senators to begin Congressional hearings on the North American Union and the Security and Prosperity Partnership agreement President Bush made with Canada and Mexico without any oversight by Congress?

  15. What happens when cultures conflict? Diversity is a sham, a proxy for the destruction of American culture

    None of the diversity advocates have a clear answer for when cultures conflict. Take polygamy for instance. American law expressly forbid polygamy. If diversity advocates have their say then Americans should accept polygamy. If polygamy is allowed as legal then we do not in fact have a “diverse” society, we have a polygamous society. There is, in fact, no such thing as a “diverse society” A society is defined by what it expressly allows and legitimizes.

    It is not an answer to state that I, as a woman, have the option of declining a polygamous union, because in a country that allow polygamy, my husband has the legal right to take another wife after he marries me. The very existence of this legal right affects my own homelife directly. The possibility of a “second wife” is a threat which hangs over every first wife in a polygamous society. Conform to the husband’s wishes or demands or you have the choice of being supplanted by a second wife or divorce. This cannot happen in a society which outlaws polygamy.

  16. Then there is language. That thorny little detail. English is a disapearing language in this country. Many black Afro-Americans that speak standard English are critcized as being “Uncle Tom’s”. Everytime you call a company customer service line you are always offered a Spanish language option (if not greeted in Spanish and offered and English option). Arabic is coming.

    I’ve learned all the Spanish I’m going to learn: Habla Englis? I guess that makes me a racist, xenophobic, arrogant old crumudgeon in addtion to be an old fashioned, intolerant, homophobic xenophobe. Boy I’m piling up the adjectives in my dotage.

  17. We have the Republicans to blame for this multiculturalism nonsense.

    I would expect the Democrats to invite a poverty class into the country so that they could get votes from people who want government benefits, however, it was the Republicans that put a stake through the heart of preserving America’s culture. Rove apparently convinced Bush that the PUBS needed to pander to the open borders vote or the PUBS would be left out in the cold politically.

    The PUBS abandoned a vibrant and currently existing “strong borders” vote in favor of a “weak borders” vote from Hispanics which would appear and support PUBS in the sometime in the future. Sometime in the future I am going to lose 15 pounds, sometime in the future I am going to go to the gym every day. Idiotic. Look at the disconnect over that abominable “comprehensive reform” bill. Both the Senate and the White House were beseiged with phone calls. Senator Trent Lott had his office phone system virtually shut down from the calls.

    The euphemism I like the best is something about helping illegals “come out of the shadows.” Why don’t we have people who have otherwise broken the law “come out of the shadows.” Mel Martinez, PUB senator from Florida talked about how America had to do (as in compelled or obligated) for the illegals. He made several speeches in which he clearly positioned himself as treating the illlegals has his constituents, not American citizens. Boy will I be glad when the Bush crowd is gone.

    PUBS have pandered to the open borders crowd like a …… polite metaphors escape me….. think one up yourself 😉 with absolutely no reward.

  18. Note 17:

    We have the Republicans to blame for this multiculturalism nonsense….. Boy will I be glad when the Bush crowd is gone.

    Unfortunately, it’s not “the Bush crowd”, its the “Rockefeller republicans”, which is to say simply, the GOP. I was reading something the other day that argued it was a Karl Rove strategy. It’s not, it’s flows from the central character of the GOP. Conservatives mistake has been that they have “taken over”, or at least highly influenced the GOP. They have not. Just like illegals, conservatives have been nothing but votes for the GOP (and grass roots political apparatus). The GOP’s actual legislative story is something very different than “conservatives”. Conservatives often point “to the courts” as indications of there influence. Only where the Rockefellers have absolutely nothing to lose (such as the courts) have they thrown a bone to the conservatives.

    Conservatives need to unhitch their wagon from the GOP. It is not working…

  19. #17 Missourian

    I agree that the Bush, et al., were apprehensive about demographics. Obviously, the pandering didn’t work. Bush and the other Republicans who were pushing for amnesty didn’t get any “credit” from the press, immigrant-rights organizations, etc., for their concern for illegal aliens.

    I think an equally strong factor for several Republicans was influence from business interests. Some might even believe that the “net economic gain” from immigration actually helps lower and middle-class Americans, when in fact the lower and middle classes have realized terrible financial loss due to the illegal labor force. Some corporations and their owners have benefitted, of course, and a lot of corporations would gladly sell out unskilled Americans in search of a cheaper supply of domestic labor.

  20. Not 19 George, the old saw about ‘jobs Americans just won’t do”

    A Tyson plant in Nebraska was raided (for PR effect by the Bush admin) and 300 illegals were “discovered” to be working there. Guess what, they weren’t working for minimum wage, they weren’t working under a union contract.
    After the illegals left the company was forced to hold a job fair to hire from the local American citizens. People lined up for miles because the “above the board” jobs were paid well and were subject to a union contract. The work was not attractive: cutting up chickens but Americans lined up to work.

    If we legalize every single illegal alien in the country, American business would then begin to pull NEW ILLEGAL ALIENS into the country because these people will work “off the books.”

    Yes, the whole thing is disgustingly corrupt, in both cases, DEMS and PUBS, the American people are sold out for short term financial or material gain.

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