Thursday, August 16, 2007

Essay 4328

From (responding to WSJ perspective presented in Essay 4326)…


The Wall Street Journal Claims ‘The Death of Diversity’

By Barbara Frankel

Today’s Wall Street Journal editorial page argues that research from Harvard professor Dr. Robert Putnam proves “The Death of Diversity.” That’s not what Dr. Putnam said. In a study that has received significant media attention, he found that social capital in the form of neighborhood friendships and political involvement has been diminished by racial/ethnic diversity in communities.

Dr. Putnam’s research is solid and proves the obvious societal point that people are tribal and gravitate toward those who look like them. But a thorough examination of his study shows that he finds in the long run that immigration and diversity immensely benefit U.S. society both economically and socially. In reference to business, Dr. Putnam states unequivocally that most studies of work groups “find that diversity fosters creativity” and that there is “powerfully summarized evidence that diversity (especially intellectual diversity) produces much better, faster problem-solving.”

Point-by-Point Rebuttal

The Wall Street Journal column, written by Daniel Henninger, deputy editor of the Journal’s editorial page, is not the first newspaper or opinion writer to discuss Dr. Putnam’s study since it came out in June. Here’s what The Wall Street Journal wrote and our responses, based on a thorough examination of Dr. Putnam’s research and DiversityInc’s own research.

• WSJ writes: “Now comes word that diversity as an ideology may be dead, or not worth saving.”

DiversityInc response: This is not what Dr. Putnam says in any way. He writes in the study: “Increased immigration and diversity are not only inevitable, but over the long run they are also desirable. Ethnic diversity is, on balance, an important social asset, as the history of my own country demonstrates.”

• WSJ writes: “Colleagues and diversity advocates, disturbed at what was emerging from the study, suggested alternative explanations. Prof. Putnam and his team re-ran the data every which way from Sunday and the result was always the same: Diverse communities may be yeasty and even creative, but trust, altruism and community cooperation fail.”

DiversityInc response: Again, the efficacy of Dr. Putnam’s study and data is not in dispute. Dr. Putnam does not say that “trust, altruism and community cooperation fail” but that there needs to be a greater effort to create “shared identities.” He writes: “Successful immigrant societies create new forms of social solidarity … by constructing new, more encompassing identities. Thus, the central challenge for modern, diversifying societies is to create a new, broader sense of ‘we.’” He cites the historic way immigrants came to the United States, “hunkered down,” and eventually changed the culture of the country itself as they became part of the mainstream.

• WSJ writes: “The ‘antis’ [anti-immigration proponents] believe the Putnam study hammers the final intellectual nail in the coffin of immigration and diversity.”

DiversityInc response: This is exactly the opposite of what Dr. Putnam intends. He writes in the study: “The weight of the evidence suggests that the net effect of immigration is to increase national income … In short, immigration and multicultural diversity have powerful advantages for both sending and receiving countries.”

• WSJ writes: “The diversity ideologues deserve whatever ill tidings they get. They’re the ones who weren’t willing to persuade the public of diversity’s merits, preferring to turn ‘diversity’ into a political and legal hammer to compel compliance.”

DiversityInc response: As participation in The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity® survey shows, corporations recognize the business benefits of diversity and are increasingly using diversity as the competitive differentiator in their direct lines of business. This is not compliance; this is good business (317 companies participated last year, up more than 100 percent over the last three years).

• WSJ writes: “The first chart offered in the Putnam study depicts inexorably rising rates of immigration in many nations. The idea that the U.S. can wave into effect a 10-year ‘time out’ on immigration flows is as likely as King Canute commanding the tides to recede.”

DiversityInc response: We agree that the flow of immigration is inevitable. It’s also highly desirable since this nation is facing a serious gap in workers, and immigrants have driven 47 percent of U.S. work-force growth since 2000. New immigrants and their children will account for 100 percent of U.S. work-force growth between 2010 and 2030, according to the Population Reference Bureau. For more on immigrants’ crucial role in the U.S. economy, see the September 2007 issue of DiversityInc magazine, out soon.

About the Study

Dr. Putnam conducted his research in 2000 in conjunction with the U.S. Census Bureau. He had a sample size of about 30,000 people across the United States. People in 41 different communities from Los Angeles and Chicago to small towns and rural areas were surveyed and sorted into the same classifications used by the Census Bureau—non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, Hispanic and Asian. A national expert on civic engagement, Dr. Putnam’s goal was to examine whether racial/ethnic diversity impacted social networks, which he believes are major indicators of civic well-being.

Dr. Putnam’s research, published in the journal “Scandinavian Political Studies”, found that all people living in racially mixed communities had a higher tendency to “hunker down” and become more isolated from their neighbors and the civic process. His research showed they volunteer less, work on community projects less often, and register to vote less.

[Click on the essay title above to view more sources via links at]

No comments: