Trust, Diversity, and Segregation in the United States and the United Kingdom
Comparative Sociology, Forthcoming
Posted: 18 Dec 2009
Date Written: December 15, 2009
Generalized trust is a value that leads to many positive outcomes for a society – greater tolerance of minorities, greater levels of volunteering and giving to charity, better functioning government, less corruption, more open markets, and greater economic growth. Generalized trust is faith in people you don’t know who are likely to be different from yourself. Yet, several people, most notably Robert Putnam, now argue that trust is lower when we are surrounded by people who are different from ourselves. This view is mistaken. Diversity (fractionalization) is not the culprit in lower levels of trust. Instead, it is residential segregation which isolates people from those who may be of a different background. Segregation is one of the key reasons why contact with people who are different from ourselves does not lead to greater trust: Such contact may not be so frequent and it is not likely to take place frequently and in an atmosphere of equality, as argued by Allport, Forbes, and Pettigrew. I show that diversity is a proxy for the minority share in a community and that: (1) segregation, especially in diverse communities, drives down trust more than diversity does; but (2) close personal ties in integrated diverse communities builds trust, but more so in the United States than in the United Kingdom, and more for majority white communities than for minorities.
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