Does ethnic diversity erode trust?: Putnam’s ‘hunkering-down’ thesis reconsideredISER External Seminars

Attention in the social capital literature has turned of late to a consideration of the effect of ethnic diversity on civic attitudes and behaviours. Generally, the conclusions of empirical analysts in a range of contexts have been quite pessimistic; area level indices of diversity are found to be correlated with lower levels of public goods, civic behaviours, and trust. In this paper, we analyse data from a new survey in the UK with a sample size approaching 25000 individuals, which enables us to examine this question in greater detail than has generally been possible to date. We use a multi-level modeling approach to estimate the effect of ethnic diversity on trust in people in the local area and trust in people in general. In addition to the main effect of ethnic diversity, we incorporate a number of indicators of the socio-economic characteristics of individuals and the areas in which they live, and their interactions with diversity. Our results show no effect of ethnic diversity on trust in people in general. There is a small but significant association between diversity and trust in people in the local area. This relationship, however, is strongly conditioned by the social and economic characteristics of individuals and neighbourhoods.

Presented by:

Patrick Sturgis (Southampton Statistical Science Research Institute, University of Southampton) Co-authors: Ian Brunton-Smith, and Sanna Read, Nick Allum

Date & time:

January 19, 2009 4:00 pm - January 19, 2009 12:00 am

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