A Harvard professor discovers an "inconvenient truth": no matter how much we'd like to believe in the rainbow mosaic of America, we're just not fond of each other. From the Boston Globe "The Downside of Diversity":
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.There's a bit of humor as the "liberal academic" Putnam (from Harvard? No!) in the pro-diversity camp has to contend with the results of his own research. And there's some good news in that Putnam believes that diversity in the workplace has a positive effect on team dynamics and problem-solving capabilities. But after the whistle blows, we'd prefer to just stay home, watch TV, and let the neighbors do the same.
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.