The Downside of Diversity

Most of us are aware that diversity of ideas can lead to innovative solutions to problems in work environments and learning in educational environments. But diversity apparently has negative effects. Based on interviews with almost 30,000 people in the U.S., Robert Putnam, professor of public policy at Harvard, has found that diversity in a community has its downsides (via

Diversity is proportional to

  • less voting,
  • less volunteering,
  • less giving to charity,
  • less working on community projects,
  • less trusting of one's neighbors, and
  • less civic well-being.

How much less? "In the most diverse communities, neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogenous settings." Although we might expect trust to lessen between different groups, Putnam found that trust lessened "even among members of the same group."

These are serious findings. Diversity is important for creativitiy and learning. At the same time, it creates friction and distrust. As noted in the post Multiculturalism and Prejudice, promoting multiculturalism has a side effect of increasing prejudice for some people. Somehow, while maintaining respect for all cultures, we, our schools, and our communities need to emphasize and teach what we have in common instead of our differences.

Related posts:
Multiculturalism and Prejudice
Authentic Multiculturalism in Medieval Spain
Economic Diversity Raises Test Scores
Collective Intelligence vs. Crowd Dumbness