Category Archives: e pluribus unum

Good places for kids’ social mobility

Scholars Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hedren, Patrick Kline and Emmanuel Saez (from Harvard and Berkeley) have garnered richly deserved  attention for their interesting retrospective look at which places were the best in America for low-income kids to be born in 1980 and 1981 to assure the highest rates of youth mobility.  [Amazingly, to do this, they were able to examine tax returns of all Americans and connect the youth with where they had grown up.]

Map of historic youth mobility in US

[To explore the above map where blue areas are areas of highest mobility and red areas are areas of lowest mobility, visit the New York Times site.]

Their work rhymes with two pieces of research that we have done.

First, they find that the places that promoted the greatest level of mobility were  places high in social capital.  [For an image of social capital by state in the US c. 2000 see here.] This is less surprising, since other scholars have found that places with high social capital were among the places historically to invest in public high schools (e.g., Larry Katz and Claudia Goldin’s work on the birth of American public high school movement in the American heartland).  Moreover, recent research by our research team, highlighted in Robert Putnam’s “Crumbling American Dreams” shows the changes in levels of community solidarity and togetherness, exemplified by the changes in his home town of Port Clinton, OH.

Second, they find that places with greater percentages of minorities were also places that afforded less social mobility for young people.  This resonates with work of Ed Glaeser and Alberto Alesina on how it is harder to foster public investments in places of greater diversity (in the US and Europe) and work that we did in “E Pluribus Unum” that also discusses the short-term challenges of increased diversity.

While their work is retrospective, we are actively involved in gathering data on social mobility for youth from the bottom third of American households (in income and education) that strongly suggests that whether levels of mobility that existed for lower-third youth in the past, future rates of mobility are likely to much lower.  Stay tuned for our evidence of this coming crisis and what we might do about it.

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Diversity and the Law/Diversity and Human Resources

We’ve previously posted various posts on Robert Putnam’s research on diversity, immigration and social cohesion.  The paper is (“E Pluribus Unum“) and prior posts about the research can be read here.

I recently came upon an interesting paper by D. Benjamin Barros called “Group Size, Heterogeneity, and Prosocial Behavior: Designing Legal Structures to Facilitate Cooperation in a Diverse Society”. He analyzes how group size and group heterogeneity affects the ability of the group to cooperate, self-police or be civicly engaged and suggests how laws and legal structures might encourage this collaboration in the face of greater diversity. Draft of paper available here.

Also, a Human Resources Journal had an interesting article on this diversity research called Diverse and Disengaged? by Scott Flanders (Human Resouce Executive Online, 9/24/07)

Two recent summaries of Putnam diversity research; Putnam article available free until year end

So diverse, yet adverse to reaching out (Houston Chronicle, Lisa Gray, 8/30/07)

More Bowling Alone in America (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Richard Handler, 8/22/07) and follow-up article here.

And, good news, Blackwell Synergy Publishing has agreed to make Robert Putnam’s E Pluribus Unum article (from the June 2007 Scandinavian Political Studies Journal) available for free download through December 31, 2007 to enable more people to read the original article about the connection between diversity and community cohesion.

Other posts on this topic here.

Putnam discusses his diversity study

Harvard Professor Robert D. Putnam discussed his research on the relationship between immigration, diversity and community cohesion on KQED yesterday (8/20/07). There is a feed for the radio show, the Forum with Michael Krasny, here.

You can see my earlier posts on Robert Putnam and diversity here

2 other interesting pieces on Robert Putnam and diversity

I’ve posted earlier on Harvard’s Robert Putnam and diversity.  You can see the earlier blog posts here.  But here are some later pieces of interest that have crossed the transom.

Robert Putnam did a blog interview on this Open Left blog site.

There’s a good blog summary of the finding on Eternity Road.

And the Ottawa Citizen had an Op-Ed (Diversity causes short-term social pain, long-term human gain; Multiculturalism’s impact on communities not as rosy as advertised, studies find by Dan Gardner, 8/18/07), which misattributed Robert Putnam’s take on diversity (since Putnam himself in his E Pluribus Unum article talks about the benefits of diversity), but cites the interesting study of Matt Costa/Dora Kahn on the benefits of diversity in the Civil War.

Misinformation about Putnam’s diversity research in Leo’s City Journal story

We’ve reported previously on Putnam’s diversity research on the impact of diversity on social capital (social ties between group and within groups).

John Leo’s article in the City Journal is completely inaccurate on one important point, that political correctness kept us from releasing these results and the data.  We never held back on releasing our findings.

In fact, within weeks of getting the original survey results in early 2001 (six years ago) we issued a national press release describing our preliminary findings in detail.  That press release was covered at the time in many publications, including the LA Times, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and so on, often quoting me specifically about the diversity-distrust connection.   The SF Chronicle of March 1, 2001, for example, quoted Putnam as follows: “Places that are ethnically diverse and that have large numbers of recent immigrants are places that have greater challenges in building connections because people feel more isolated there,” Putnam said. “And that’s not just along racial lines, [but] generalized social isolation.”

And a few months later in 2001 (just as soon as the data had been cleaned) we made the full, raw data-set publicly available to anyone through the Roper Center data archive.  Over the last six years, those data have become one of the most widely-used data-sets in the social sciences, downloaded and analyzed by hundreds of other researchers. 

Finally, contrary to Leo’s claim, we have not “published only an initial summary” of our findings, but an elaborate 38-page journal article, packed with charts, statistics and methodological details, and as we have said, the raw original data have been publicly available for six years, an invitation to early scrutiny that is almost unprecedented in social science.  In short, our story is the exact opposite of suppressing results which is why Leo’s story is so galling, regardless of whether Leo likes the findings or not.