From the Financial Times, (hat tip: Memeorandum):
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.While the study is likely to have a number of caveats about diversity, it is an interesting result. I wonder if much of it has to do with the notion that diversity has been shoved down the throats of so many people that we simply don't trust the concept.
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.
That is not to say that diversity doesn't have its benefits, it just appears to me that there needs to be some substantial common ground between the groups. If one looks at a microcosm of a major university as a sample of the country, you can see some benefits and problems with diversity.
On a large scale, racial, ethnic and even religious minorities tend to stick to themselves throughout the campus. This might not be surprising to many people and it wasn't to me at the University of Maryland, despite the university's mantra of diversity.
However, where color lines tended to break down was in smaller organizations, where some sort of common interest, such as drama, music, or other clubs and societies would and could united diverse groups under one banner. These smaller groups, like my fraternity Phi Sigma Pi, often appealed to people of different backgrounds, because Phi Sigma Pi was an honor fraternity, where, at least at Maryland, you had to have a minimum GPA of 3.3 to even be invited to join. With a limited membership, we were able to build relationships among people who normally would not have associated.
Putnam's new study may find have this finding buried in the report. But common ground among people of vastly different backgrounds cannot happen simply because they live in the same place. There needs to be something more and something substantive.