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Immigration and Bowling Alone.


More information about the effects of multiculturalism and diversity from Harvard Political Scientist Robert Putnam.

This study was recently covered by the New York Times.

Bowling Alone by John Leo…

Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone, is very nervous about the release of his new work. Understandably so. His five-year study shows that immigration and ethnic diversity have a devastating impact on social capital, the fabric of associations, trust and neighborliness that create and sustain communities. In the short to medium range, that is, because in the long run, new communities and new ties are formed, Putnam says. What he fears – correctly – is that his work on the surprisingly negative impact of diversity will become part of the immigration debate.

His study found that immigration and diversity not only reduce social capital between ethnic groups, but also within the groups. Trust, even of one’s own race, is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friends fewer. The problem is not ethnic conflict or worse racial relations, but withdrawal and isolation. Putnam writes: “In colloquial language, people living in ethnically diverse settings appear to ‘hunker down,’ – that is, to pull in like a turtle.”

In 41 sites studied in the U.S., the more diverse the neighborhood, the less residents trust neighbors. This was true in communities large and small, from Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Boston to Yakima, rural South Dakota and the mountains of West Virginia. In diverse San Francisco and Los Angeles, about 30 percent of people say they trust neighbors a lot. In ethnically homogeneous communities in the Dakotas, the figure is 70-80 percent. The difference between Los Angeles and homogeneous Bismarck, North Dakota, is roughly as great as the difference between an area with a poverty rate of 7 percent and one with a poverty rate of 23 percent, or between an area with 36 percent college graduates and one with none.

Putnam’s findings are published in the June issue of Scandinavian Political Studies (“E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century“). Diversity does not produce “bad race relations,” he says. Rather, people in diverse communities tend “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.” Putnam adds a crushing footnote: his findings “may underestimate the real effect of diversity on social withdrawal.”


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