In contrast to the melting pot theory taught in elementary classrooms across the country, famed social scientist Robert Putnam recently released a study that suggests that racial and ethnic diversity may have its drawbacks. Putnam’s findings come from a huge study that compiled 30,000 detailed interviews with subjects from 41 different US cities, the largest study ever on civic engagement.
The results are troubling: the more diverse a community, the less likely its citizens are to engage in civic activities. Cities with greater diversity volunteer less, vote less, and give less to charity than their less-diverse counterparts. The author of “Bowling Alone”, a landmark book published in 2000 that suggested Americans were getting less and involved in civic life, Putnam is no stranger to the subject of social isolation.
Researchers looking to refute the study are not likely to find holes in Putnam’s data. The author, well-known for his liberal and progressive views, conducted a rigorous examination on his study. He spent a period of over five years re-examining his own conclusions after initially realizing the “inconvenient truth” he was about to release.
In summarizing his findings, Putnam notes that people tend to “hunker down” and withdraw from their neighbors. He even found that tensions are high between members of the same ethnic group. Conservative think tanks have been quick to latch on to Putnam’s research, suggesting that the study proves the negative implications of lax immigration laws.
Putnam disagrees with such views, suggesting that a more diverse America is inevitable, not to mention valuable.