Ali’s blog

Mostly quant stuff with occasional digressions

Study paints bleak picture of ethnic diversity

Posted by alifinmath on February 8, 2008

A 2006 article in the FT:


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.”

Prof Putnam found trust was lowest in Los Angeles, “the most diverse human habitation in human history”, but his findings also held for rural South Dakota, where “diversity means inviting Swedes to a Norwegians’ picnic”.

When the data were adjusted for class, income and other factors, they showed that the more people of different races lived in the same community, the greater the loss of trust. “They don’t trust the local mayor, they don’t trust the local paper, they don’t trust other people and they don’t trust institutions,” said Prof Putnam. “The only thing there’s more of is protest marches and TV watching.”


And a related piece here:


Why does trust matter? The Western societies we know would grind to a halt if we did not trust authorities, such as courts, the police, tax inspectors, to uphold the rule of law rather than take a decision based on kinship. We would not invest in or work for companies which decide about the promotion of employees or product prices on the basis of kinship rather than merit or price. We would not send our children to school if we did not believe children would be treated equally, with no favored treatment for relatives of the teachers. We (grudgingly) pay our taxes in the expectation that social security benefits will be paid on a non-discriminatory basis. We stop after being involved in a car accident to draw up the necessary paperwork with the other party in a dispassionate manner. We try to be as objective as we can in our pronouncements, because we expect the same from others. In short, we accept to treat others as we expect them to treat us. Because there is trust in reciprocity, things on the whole are fairly civilized, fair and orderly.

It may be difficult to objectively state whether so-called “low trust” cultures are in some way inferior to so-called “high trust” cultures – indeed, both have their own attractions or advantages and left to their own devices they constitute a relatively stable equilibrium. However, it is easy to see that it is problematic to mix them together. We all go through a Prisoner’s Dilemma many times a day, deciding on a course of action in function of the trust we have in the other party. This is usually a straightforward thing within a culture with homogenous trust expectations, but breaks down in a multicultural society which is the equivalent of putting a German driver in rush hour traffic in Naples (or vice versa): what to do when the light turns red? The best defense in such circumstances often is to take the low-trust approach, i.e. assume the worst. When communities do not fully integrate in a host community, they largely preserve their own low-trust patterns. If this were to happen in Western Europe in the coming decades, following a large scale importation in public life of Middle Eastern trust patterns or governance, it would probably mean that trust levels in European society would fall to a level somewhere between present day Europe and present day Turkey or North Africa.

To get an indication of the gap in trust between the Western world and the Muslim world, a good proxy is the corruption index of Transparency International. Corruption is putting your own or your clan’s interests before those of the state or your employer. The 20 least corrupt countries are all European or Anglo Saxon, with the exception of Singapore and Hong Kong, two former British colonies. Turkey ranks 65th, just behind Jamaica and just ahead of Burkina Faso, while Morocco ranks 78th and Algeria 97th.

As Prospect Magazine has argued in the long run a multicultural society is probably incompatible with one with generous social welfare, because tax payers will be far more reluctant to pay a share for welfare recipients they feel no bond with.

There is little doubt that we live in the dying days of the multicultural fantasy. It will end in misery and may lead to the loss of Europe as a part of Western civilisation. Our children and grandchildren will look back to our days and wonder why so many so easily accepted what patently contradicted history and common sense. Then, however, the current thinking elites, just like Lenin’s useful idiots in the past, will have conveniently forgotten their part in the dismantling of 2000 years of European culture within a mere generation.


I couldn’t agree more. To qualify as a nation, a  country needs an ethno-biological core: a nation is the outermost circle in a ring that extends outward from individual through family, clan, and tribe. Genetic proximity is key. Without it one has an empire, a Tower of Babel, with scant trust. Sort of like the Roman empire 2000 years ago. Or the American imperium today.


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