Segregation and Mistrust: Diversity, Isolation, and Social Cohesion

50 Pages Posted: 18 Dec 2009

See all articles by Eric M. Uslaner

Eric M. Uslaner

University of Maryland, College Park; Institute for Corruption Studies

Date Written: December 15, 2009


Book in progress under contract to Cambridge University Press) arguing that diversity does not drive down trust, but that residential segregation does reduce both trust and altruistic behavior. Concentrated minorities are more likely to develop a strong identity that supercedes a national sense of identification (trust in people who are different from oneself) and to build local institutions and political bodies that enhance this sense of separateness. Geographical isolation may breed in-group identity at the expense of the larger society. Segregation may also lead to greater political organization by minority groups, which can establish their own power bases in opposition to the political organizations dominated by the majority group as their share of the citizenry grows. In diverse settings I find support for a far stronger linkage between segregation and trust than for diversity and trust. And trust has consequences, as I argued in Uslaner (2002), most notably altruistic deeds. I consider not only the roots of trust, but also how diversity and segregation shape volunteering and giving to charity. I employ data from national surveys in the United States, among whites, African-Americans, and Latinos, as well as from the United Kingdom and Sweden, and Canada. I also estimate models using aggregate data from American cities using recently developed measures of residential segregation to support my theoretical claim that segregation creates conditions that should lead to lower trust. Finally, I consider how segregation might lead to either fewer altruistic acts – or to altruistic behavior primarily benefitting one’s own in-group. Segregation, however, is not exogenous: Whites generally prefer to live in white neighborhoods. Minorities may prefer to live in mixed neighborhoods, but often face discrimination in housing and the simple reluctance of whites to live among them. Whites who are more trusting are more likely to favor living in integrated neighborhoods – so the direction of the linkage between trust and segregation may not be so clear, perhaps limiting the impact of integrated neighborhoods on trust.

Suggested Citation

Uslaner, Eric M., Segregation and Mistrust: Diversity, Isolation, and Social Cohesion (December 15, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Eric M. Uslaner (Contact Author)

University of Maryland, College Park ( email )

College Park, MD 20742
United States
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+1301 314 9690 (Fax)

Institute for Corruption Studies

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United States

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