I read a fascinating article in the Boston Globe today, online, called "The Downside of Diversity" by Michael Jonas. It's about a study performed by a world-renowned social scientist named Robert Putnam. The study, which was done in 41 communities throughout the United States and included 32,000 people, resulted in some interesting findings regarding the effect of diversity in a community's "social capital." Putnam coined the phrase, which deals with "the social networks that are key indicators of civic well-being." After initially publishing his raw data in 2000, Putnam has spent the past several years going through the data to test the theory he came to at that time: diversity can often be bad for a community's civic well-being.
What's really perplexing about the study's findings is that it seems to go against the very fabric of the American social policy, which promotes diversity. But, it turns out, diverse communities often lack trust, charity, and optimism about society. It was often the case that people in diverse communities didn't trust people like them! For example, a black Baptist in a community with several other races and religions was less likely to trust a fellow black Baptist in that community than if they lived in a community with a majority of black Baptists. Less diverse communities seemed to have more overall trust, which is downright odd to learn.