Diversity Is Not What You May Think

Some very sad news:

A bleak picture of the corrosive effects of ethnic diversity has been revealed in research by Harvard University’s Robert Putnam, one of the world’s most influential political scientists.

His research shows that the more diverse a community is, the less likely its inhabitants are to trust anyone – from their next-door neighbour to the mayor….

The core message of the research was that, “in the presence of diversity, we hunker down”, he said. “We 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.”

Link via Greg Mankiw here.

Update: Putnam disputes this article’s interpretation of his work, see here.

8 Responses to “Diversity Is Not What You May Think”


  • For best results we should celebrate diversity on special days like Columbus Day and Cinco de Mayo. All other days we should strive to be Americans.

  • Huh? I guess I missed the memo on proper American protocol.

  • could you please add a little analysis to these quotes? i’m not quite sure what your point is.

  • Sometimes I don’t have a point, I just post them to add some balance to already held views.

  • It is one thing to accept, or to actively seek, ethnic (racial?) diversity in the altruism of equal opportunity. I think most Americans want to see this as a near-term goal; these innate differences are essentially cosmetic.

    It is quite another thing to accept, by force of policy or law, a diversity of moral and ethical values which threaten our free society; these differences are learned behaviors which mean a great deal to free people.

    So when the subject of “diversity” comes up, I always try to explore just what variety of diversity is on the table!

  • Diversity is a fact of life. How we manage it is critical. It was managed in Yugoslavia for many years by the heavy hand of Tito. When he left, civility left. I hope that we can do better for the sake of our children and grandchildren.

  • Seems as if the right has it wrong on this one, or at least on it’s interpretation of Putnam’s study.

    At both talks, Putnam emphasized his study’s three principal conclusions. First, advanced countries such as the U.S. will inevitably see increases in immigration and diversity, which will strengthen the countries overall.

    Second, in the short term, diversity and immigration might challenge community cohesion and make people less trustful of each other.

    Third, a society can overcome these challenges by breaking down socially constructed barriers, creating a new sense of “we.” Harvard Crimson Article

    Diversity is actually what I’ve thought. It is challenging whenever you don’t encounter sameness, but this is also beneficial in real ways (e.g. increasing critical thinking abilities).

  • You are correct, I went back to the original link and there is an update with Putnam’s criticism of how the article presented his findings, see here.

    Thanks for the correction, I’ve placed an update above as well.

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