Diversity, Equality and Social Capital

The Saguaro Seminar, under the leadership of Robert D. Putnam, has been conducting research on the inter-relation of diversity (mainly examining race and ethnicity), immigration and social capital since 2001.  We have also been examining the relationship between inequality and both diversity and social capital.

The first publication from this research, "E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the 21st Century: The 2006 Johan Skytte Lecture," by Robert D. Putnam appears in the June 2007 Scandinavian Political Studies Journal. The diversity research was the subject of Robert D. Putnam's lecture upon receiving the 2006 Skytte Prize, the top prize given to political scientists, which some consider the rough equivalent of a Nobel Prize.

There are three key elements of this research, each equally important:

  1. Increased diversity and immigration are essential, inevitable and generally strengthen advanced nations;
  2. But in the short-term, diversity and immigration challenges community cohesion; and
  3. Longer-term, successful immigrant societies overcome these challenges by building a broader sense of "we". America has successfully done this with the wave of immigration from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. This integration can be accomplished through popular culture, education, national symbols, or common experiences (like national service).

Summaries of/commentaries on this research:

One interesting outcome of the research has been that the Irvine Foundation has issued a letter from their president underscoring how E Pluribus Unum shows the importance of the Irvine Foundation's work in helping to bridge differences in communities, work on improving immigrants' English-language skills, and making people more comfortable among diversity. Read the Fall 2007 President's letter here.

Also, there has been some discussion of this among Human Resource professionals. See "Diverse and Disengaged?" by Scott Flanders (Human Resouce Executive Online, 9/24/07) and "Debunking Diversity" by Raghav Singh (9/20/07).

There have been a lot of blog posts and discussions about this diversity research; see, for instance, "Does Diversity Cause Us to Mistrust One Another?" (Sepia Mutiny blog, 8/9/07).

And a Canadian take on these findings in "Bumbling along in search of the new 'we'" (Margaret Wente op-ed, Globe and Mail, 8/11/07).

See also "Rallies, Not Riots" (Robert D. Putam op-ed, Boston Globe, 12/31/06), highlighting the unsung development of immigrant integration in U.S. relative to Europe.

Saguaro's research on diversity, immigration and social capital has been funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the Rockefeller Foundation.