Category Archives: immigration

Putnam and Jeb Bush discussing immigration in Denver

Welland Memorial to immigrant labor; photo by Bill Strong

Excerpt from Denver Post story:

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said today that if his children walked the streets of Phoenix they might look awfully suspicious to police. His wife Columba is from Mexico.

Harvard professor Robert D. Putnam told the same crowd of city officials from across the country at the Denver Convention Center that his grandchildren might likewise draw suspicion. His daughter married a Latino man, he said.

“I think it’s not right that they could be picked up just because of the way they look,” Putnam said.

Bush and Putnam spoke and then fielded questions at a National League of Cities convention about immigration issues including the controversial Arizona immigration law.

The law aims to detain, prosecute and deport illegal immigrants. The federal government has won an injunction blocking parts of the law, including a section requiring police to question the immigration status of those they suspect are in the country illegally. Arizona has appealed.

A group of conservative lawmakers in Colorado is considering introducing an Arizona-style immigration bill in the legislature in January.

Read “Denver forum speakers question Arizona immigration law ” (Denver Post, December 4, 2010, by Kirk Mitchell)

Harvard professor Robert D. Putnam told the same crowd of city officials from across the country at the Denver Convention Center that his grandchildren might likewise draw suspicion. His daughter married a Latino man, he said.

“I think it’s not right that they could be picked up just because of the way they look,” Putnam said.

Bush and Putnam spoke and then fielded questions at a National League of Cities convention about immigration issues including the controversial Arizona immigration law.

Read “Denver forum speakers question Arizona immigration law” (December 4, 2010, Denver Post, Kirk Mitchell)

Summary of recent happiness research [UPDATED 6/1/2012]

We’ve reported on some happiness and subjective wellbeing research earlier.  [See also this post and this], including this post on how the UK government is starting to track happiness with a goal of increasing national well-being.

John Helliwell, emeritus professor of economics at UBC and co-director of a CIFAR panel looking into Social Interactions, Identity and Wellbeing, was at Harvard yesterday summarizing his and others’ recent research on happiness research, with special attention to the social context of well-being.

John is a relentlessly upbeat and positive person, messianic in his message, but also a hard-nosed social scientist.  [With regard to happiness, it's reminiscent of the "When Harry Met Sally" scene, where another dinner seeing Meg Ryan in ecstasy says "I'll have what she's having."  Only in John's case, unlike Meg Ryan's, his happiness is heart-felt.] He had the group singing “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands” and noted after the group sing that research shows that doing things with others, especially making music, is great for increasing happiness, as any choral group member can affirm.

He observed that the amount of data and experimentation regarding happiness research is in its infancy but suspects that the three major points about happiness that will ultimately emerge are:

1. The positive trumps the negative.  So much of our society is built around the negative: treating the sick rather than preventing sickness, enacting laws to deal with failures, imprisoning transgressors,…  But Helliwell thinks we haven’t focused enough on “wellness” studies, observing what ensures that things actually work and make people happy.  How does the positive trump the negative? For example, autobiographies of nuns in their 20s were parsed for emotional content and positive emotional content was found to be predictive of longevity.  Similarly, mid-life members of the American Psychological Association, whose most important research finding represented something positive rather than negative, also lived longer, controlling for other likely factors.

2. Community trumps materialism.  Partly because of advertising and economics, we chase materialism, thinking that a larger house or higher salary will bring us happiness, and in the process live somewhere necessitating a longer commute, less sleep, and less time spent in community.  In these Faustian bargains, we wind up less happy rather than more so. Helliwell and Huang have found that a 1% improvement in a worker’s relationship with the boss improves happiness as much as a 30% increase in salary.  Helliwell noted an experiment that showed that even the act of rowing together improved happiness.

John noted that he is working with Ed Diener, the CDC, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on an effort to get clinicians to ask community-connectedness and wellbeing questions as part of intake exams by physicians.

3. Generosity trumps selfishness.  People who give away more of their wealth, regardless of income, feel happier than those who give away less.  Similarly, those who did favors for others in the last year felt happier than those who received favors in the last year. The largest happiness effect is seen when people do things for someone together with other people.

Some other observations of Helliwell:

Negative role of media in this process: 2% of Canadians had actually been a victim of crime in the last year but 20+% expected to be in the next 12 months.  Similarly, 24% of Toronto residents thought that a stranger would return a lost wallet, when in reality, an experiment showed that 80% did.  Because we’re less connected with others, we rely much more on the media and the media is largely selling negative news.

Role of income: Worldwide, there is a decent correlation between levels of happiness and levels of income.

Map of World Happiness – Adrian White, Leicester; happier places in darker red

But the fact that income and happiness appear related is NOT because the relationship between income and happiness is all that strong, but because the levels of income between say Africa and the US are so different.  Many other factors are greater predictors of happiness, like trust of others, social connections, lack of corruption, sense of freedom, religiosity, enough money for food, and social support networks.  It is only because these stronger predictors are not higher in say Africa than the US that income looks to be strongly influential.

If one compares say provinces of Canada against each other (Helliwell is Canadian, hence all the Canadian references), income levels do not explain which provinces are happier.  The happiness differences are much more about community connection and involvement.  The wealthiest provinces (like Ontario where Toronto is or BC where Vancouver is) are the least happy, and some of the poorer provinces like the Maritimes (NE of Maine) are the most happy.  While the differences in happiness are not huge between say the Maritimes and BC, it would take a 150% increase in salary to produce the same increase in happiness.  Helliwell says the answer is not a question of people from Toronto moving to St. John’s (Newfoundland, Canada), but learning and copying the activities and actions that make folks in St. John’s happy.  In fact just having the Toronto residents move to St. John’s is likely to make everyone less happy.

[Helliwell noted that there is one study comparing levels of happiness across US States by Andrew Oswald and Stephen Wu, but Helliwell expressed some skepticism in the happiness data they used. The study found high levels of happiness in Louisiana and low levels of happiness in NY, Connecticut and NJ.]

Helliwell said that work is still being done on the relationship between income and happiness.  At a national level, with World Values Survey data, he and Putnam found that around the median level of OECD (developed) countries, income stopped having much of an effect on increasing happiness.  Some other more recent data (Gallup World Poll) suggests that a log-linear relationship of income to happiness continues with no declining returns to income.  Helliwell noted that Deaton and Kahneman found declines in affective (emotional) subjective wellbeing after an intermediate level of income in these same Gallup data, but no decreasing returns to income in cognitive life satisfaction.  Helliwell also noted that raising income of some within a county is not a productive strategy for increasing income since those whose income is raised are happier but others are less happy, in other words it is zero-sum.  In contrast, if you are more socially connected into one’s community, both you and your community members are happier, even if they are not socially connected (positive externalities).

In world rankings of happiness, Denmark is #1.  Canada is higher in happiness than the US (even with lower per capita income) mainly because of the lower perceived levels of government corruption in Canada.

Helliwell believes that a participatory process is key to happiness.  Alex Haslam, a social psychologist, has done interesting experiments here.  In one experiment, an eldercare facility had a “happy floor” and an “unhappy floor” (for reasons they couldn’t determine).  They were moving into a new facility and had the “happy floor” get a professionally designed new environment.  The “unhappy floor” was assigned to work together to design their own new floor.  While professionals scoffed at the design that the “unhappy floor” came up with, in the new facility, the “unhappy floor” became happier in the new facility than any other floor. (Haslam and colleagues call this collective self-realization.) In a second experiment, they randomly assigned some workers to get a first-rate professionally designed cubicle, some to get an average professionally-designed cubicle, and some to design their own cubicle within a given budget.  While the professionals similarly scoffed at the self-designed cubicles, the workers in these cubicles were far happier than either of the other two groups.  Helliwell thinks that the biggest gains would be workers collectively designing the public spaces at the workplace.

Another experiment with a Singapore prison (called “Captains of Lives and Yellow Ribbon Project”) converted it from being a place of punishment to a place to reintegrate people back into society:  they held cooking competitions with residents from the community, jogging races together, etc.  They found that recidivism rates (re-entry of prisoners back into prison once released) declined dramatically to 25% and that staff retention in the prison rose (since the staff had completely redesigned roles).

Helliwell believes that the art of community connectedness is inherently learnable.  He notes that it does take an unusual combination of empathy and nerve (since by suggesting to someone that they attend a block party or do something you run the risk of being rejected).    He said this spirit of engagement is infectious.  He noted that he gave his talk in the Maritime provinces and asked someone from St. John’s whether other St. John’s residents ever flipped him the bird when driving; the person replied, “No.  If someone gives us the finger, they must be from out of town.”  Helliwell commented that two people giving each other the finger in rush-hour traffic both go home less happy (a negative externality) whereas two people waving to each other in traffic both go home happier.

- With regard to immigration, he noted that immigration challenges community levels of happiness since it is harder for immigrants to get involved and be connected (since they have severed many friendships and community ties through their migration, and since they may have language issues and severe time constraints to getting involved if holding down multiple jobs).  He thinks the answer is multiculturalism and pointed to the work of Irene Bloemraad.  He thinks that rather than artificially positing that bonding social capital (the ties of immigrants to each other) and bridging social capital (the ties of immigrants to natives) are zero-sum, that instead the happiest immigrants have significant levels of both bonding and bridging social ties.  [In other work we have done, it appears that the bonding ties often precede the bridging ties and it is not until immigrants feel that they have their own bonding support networks that they feel comfortable reaching out.]

Our inability to learn from the experiences of others.  Heliwell was asked about research by Dan Gilbert; Gilbert found in experiments with Harvard students, that new students continued to take paths that gave them greater choice (thinking it would bring them greater happiness) even when presented with data from prior cohorts of Harvard students indicating that greater choice brought them less happiness.  In other words, they couldn’t learn from others’ experiences about how to achieve happiness.  Helliwell described an experiment by Dan Ariely and others in priming:  most people cheat slightly in their self-scoring of tests, but students who were asked to recall as many of the Ten Commandments as they could before scoring their tests, scored themselves accurately.  Even if we can’t get people to change their erroneous thought processes (e.g. more choice = more happiness), through priming Helliwell believes that we may be able to change behavior.

- He was asked whether parents are the least happy group and what the impact of children is on happiness.  Helliwell said it is hard to ferret out.  Most people exhibit a U-shaped lifecycle for happiness:  they are happiest in their youth and retirement and less happy in middle age.  The shape of the curve may depend a lot on governmental policy — how much they support people in their elder years.  Child rearing typically occurs when people are less happy anyway, but he thinks it is not children that are bringing them unhappiness, but the competition and conflict people in those years feel between their roles (work, parenting, relationships, homeowning, etc.).  He noted that the loss of a child brings extreme depression (suggesting how much children are valued), and while he said he has not seen great data on this, he suspects that children and grandchildren bring great happiness in retirement years.

- Helliwell also asserted that several “set point” theorists had abandoned their claims in the face of better data.  The “set point” theorists have argued that everyone has some baseline level of happiness (some are relatively happy, some unhappy) and that good or bad events (winning a lottery, losing a leg) momentarily dislodge a person from their set point but they return to their baseline level of happiness over a period of months or years.  Helliwell says that the data do not support this notion that we adapt to everything.  [See also Andrew Oswald's work in 2007 on lottery winners and interview with Sharon Begley.]

He closed by suggesting that we should treat each elevator ride as a place for experimentation rather than a brief prison sentence.

[Good summary post on the Atlantic by Derek Thompson based on analysis by the New Economics Foundation of 10 things economics can tell us about happiness.  Things associated with higher happiness:  being wealthy (but only to a point); higher public spending; going from part-time to full-time work; and self-employment. Things associated with lower happiness: income inequality; inflation; unemployment; credit card debt; working more hours (if already working full-time); and longer commutes.]

Robert Putnam and Jeb Bush on immigrant integration

March for Immigrants; photo by JcOlivera

My colleague Robert Putnam and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush had an Op-Ed in the July 3 Washington Post noting that kvetching about immigrant is a time-honored tradition.  The grumbling, however, ignores the reality that immigrant integration has always taken decades and the fact that immigrants are integrating into the mainstream as fast if not faster than in the past.    [We get a misleading impression since so many of the immigrants are newer to emigrating to the US, so a snapshot of Hispanics today, for example, masks the steady assimilation that is happening over time within any immigrant family.]  The grumbling also ignores just how essential immigration is to the successful economic future for the U.S.

See “A better welcome for our nation’s immigrants” (Washington Post, 7/2/10).

The op-ed contains a great quote by Benjamin Franklin from 1753 about the dire fears of  German-American immigrants  over-running the country and destroying our language and an amazing vignette about how Bethlehem Steel and the YMCA in Bethlehem, PA collaborated in the early 1900s to teach English free to thousands of  immigrants in their town!

Missing from the Op-Ed was the fact that even as late as the 1930s, Mario Cuomo, who went on to become the most gifted American public speaker of his generation, didn’t even speak any English until he started attending public school.

The published Op-Ed also neglected to include that there is strong historical precedent for one of their policy recommendations — aid to communities impacted by the cost of immigration.  Both pre- and post-World War II, the federal government provided “impact grants” for local school systems adversely impacted by a massive nationwide buildup of military bases dictated by the national interest, in the same way as higher levels of immigration today are in our national interest to keep the economy strong and deal with our fiscal pressures.

Intelligence and social capital

Flickr photo by aylaujp

Flickr photo by aylaujp

Jason Richwine had a recent post on The American blog (“A Smart Solution to the Diversity Dilemma“) suggesting that the answer to the short-term tensions Robert Putnam has observed, between diversity and immigration and levels of civic engagement, has a solution: admit smarter immigrants.

First, a clarification…Jason Richwine is incorrect in asserting that Robert Putnam was unclear about whether to share these findings.  We shared an early take on this finding immediately after we conducted the 2000 Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey.

I disagree with Jason”s conclusion;  since education is generally a stronger predictor of levels of civic engagement than raw intelligence, we could still admit less educated immigrants who got educated over time in the U.S.  and have the immigrants still be highly civicly engaged.  Moreover, the lower civic engagement that Robert Putnam discussed in “E Pluribus Unum” was not a compositional effect (a consequence of having more immigrants who were less educated), but a consequence of the diversity within communities, so admitting more educated immigrants wouldn’t have offset that effect.  Nonetheless, his blog post did surface some interesting papers that I hadn’t seen before.  Richwine asserts: “Various survey data indicate that IQ is an important and independent predictor of voting, membership in various social organizations, daily newspaper reading, and tolerance of free speech rights.”

The backup for his assertion comes from:

1)  Seth Hauser, “Education, Ability, and Civic Engagement in the Contemporary United StatesSocial Science Research 29, 556–582 (2000).  Hauser found a modest independent affect of ability on voting and social participation, controlling for levels of education in GSS and Wisconsin Longitudinal Survey data: He found no such finding in ANES (American National Election Studies) data but this data has much weaker and less objective data on intelligence. Hauser concluded that in general the bivariate impact of ability on civic engagement comes from ability proxying for levels of education ultimately achieved.  He also found that education was a stronger predictor of levels of civic engagement than ability.  For “ability”,  GSS had a measure of vocabulary; and WLS used Henmon–Nelson Test of Mental Ability.

2) Stephen Miller, ” Intelligence, Irrationality, and Civic Returns: Can Education Improve Democracy?” (Econ Dept., George Mason Univ.).  Miller also used GSS data and also found that both education and intellectual ability in GSS predict voting, daily newspaper reading and tolerance of free speech.  Ability did not have any independent effect on group membership and only had an effect through levels of education achieved.

Had the effect of intelligence on social capital been much stronger than education (even controlling for education), it would suggest that there is less that one can do to alter one’s baseline level of civic engagement, and head us to more Calvinist notions of predestined civic engagement.  But since education is the bigger driver in Hauser’s findings, it suggests that we are keepers of our civic fate: although we may begin with differential likelihoods of getting engaged, these can be more than offset through additional education (which both provides us with useful skills for getting engaged — like organizing others, running a meeting, writing persuasive materials, making a speech etc. — and will make others more likely to ask us to get civicly engaged).

Diversity impedes redistribution

(Flickr photo by Maistora)

(Flickr photo by Maistora)

It has long been noted that in more diverse countries, it is harder to sustain wealth redistributive efforts, and public support for such programs wanes.  It has always been hard to disentangle culture from national wealth and diversity in understanding what causes this. 

A recent paper by HKS colleagues Erzo Luttmer and Monica Singhal (using European Social Survey data) gains traction on this issue by looking at immigrants to developed countries and finds that immigrants bring with them their attitudes about redistribution.  So immigrants, controlling for their wealth, education, etc., and their receiving country’s attitudes towards redistribution are more likely to support redistribution if they country that they come from supports redistribution. 

As the Economist summarized this:

Even after controlling for income, education and other relevant economic and social factors such as work history and age, views about redistribution in an immigrant’s home country are a strong predictor of his own opinions. Indeed, this measure of “cultural background” explains as much as income levels, and three-fifths as much as income and education combined. These results hold even for immigrants who moved 20 years before they were surveyed; they cannot be attributed to people not having had time to adjust their views.


And the results can not be explained by self-selection — which immigrants choose to migrate as these impacts would favor immigrants moving to countries that are more similar to the immigrants’ own views about redistribution.

Luttmer and Singhal found that these differences fade over time: the culture of immigrants has only about 2/3 of the effect on second generation immigrants as foreign-born immigrants.

The findings are consistent with some research done by John Helliwell about immigrants and their levels of social capital (social and civic engagement).
Helliwell describes the fact that trust levels are lower among Canadian immigrants than non-immigrants and that these differences persist even controlling for factors like education, income, time in community, etc. Tom Rice and Jan Feldman have noted the importance of immigrants’ home country trust in setting their trust levels when they emigrate. ["Civic Culture and Democracy From Europe to America" (1997).] Using this framework, Helliwell finds that these trust differentials disappear in Canada when one controls for average trust levels in the home country of the immigrants. Helliwell also asserts that contrary to the “footprint of imported trust” which lasts for many generations in the U.S., there is starting to be evidence in Canada that this it may disappear within one generation. Helliwell thus asks whether there are generalizable lessons about the win-win benefits to integrative governmental attitudes toward immigration in promoting better inter-racial attitudes and higher trust.

These findings are also broadly consistent with work done by Daniel Elazar on political culture in American states (in American Federalism: A View From the States), where he found, remarkably, that differences in “moral political culture”, especially in the upper midwest, were explained by broad migratory patterns of immigrants decades earlier from highly civic and trusting Scandinavian countries.

See “In the Blood: Attitudes towards redistribution have a strong cultural component” (Economist, June 4, 2009)

And Culture, Context, and the Taste for Redistribution by Erzo Luttmer and Monica Singhal, May 2009

Netherlands study also finds diversity challenging for social capital in short-term

Confirming one portion of Robert Putnam’s much discussed *E Pluribus Unum* study, a researcher (Jaap Dronkers, Chair of the Social Stratification and Inequality Program at the European University Institute in the
Department of Political and Social Sciences, Italy) found similar results to Putnam’s in the Netherlands — that diversity poses challenges for social capital. [Putnam's *E Pluribus Unum* article also discussed the manifold benefits of diversity and discussed strategies for building stronger bonds over the longer-term through this diversity and optimism that we could do so.]

Abstract of paper: “Putnam (2007) claims that in the short run ethnic diversity tends to reduce solidarity and social capital: in ethnically diverse neighborhoods, residents of all ethnicities tend to ‘hunker down’. Trust (even in one’s own ethnic group) is lower, altruism and community cooperation is more rare, friends fewer. This study replicates Putnam’s analysis for a West-European country. Furthermore, by including the ethnicity of the respondent’s neighbors, a sub-neighborhood level measure of ethnic diversity is added to the analyses. With data from the Netherlands (N=5,757), using multi-level regression, we confirm Putnam’s claim and find that both for immigrants and native residents 1) neighborhoods’ ethnic diversity reduces individual trust in neighborhoods; 2) those with neighbors of a different ethnicity have less trust in neighborhoods and neighbors 3) a substantial part of the effect of neighborhoods’ ethnic diversity on individual trust can be explained by the higher propensity of having neighbors of a different ethnicity. We conclude that ethnic diversity can have a negative effect on individual trust. However, we do not find these negative effects of neighborhoods’ or neighbors ethnic diversity on inter-ethnic trust.”  Jaap Dronkers et al. focused on Netherlands since these were the only data within the European Union that they knew of that contained both a measurement of individual trust and the zip code or census tract of the respondent.

Here is direct link to the paper “Ethnic diversity in neighbourhoods and individual trust of immigrants and natives: A replication of Putnam (2007) in a West-European country.”

While we have not seen the results, we have been told that UK data from the Home Office Citizenship Survey (now called the Citizenship Survey) also shows a strongly significant relationship between respondent’s trust of neighbors (regardless of their race) and ethnic diversity of the neighborhood, controlling for all the standard controls at the individual and neighborhood level.

Note: some European studies recently assert to find contrary findings to Putnam’s “E Pluribus Unum” article, but are completely inapposite. Since information on the diversity of various neighborhoods is very hard to come by, many studies erroneously simply substitute a “national” level of diversity. See: Marc Hooghe et al (Ethnic Diversity, Trust and Ethnocentrism and Europe. A Multilevel Analysis of 21 European Countries“) or the erroneously titled “‘Ethnic diversity and social capital in Europe: tests of Putnam’s thesis in European countries” (Forthcoming in Scandinavian Political Studies) by Dutch sociologists Peer Scheepers, Maurice Gesthuizen and Tom van der Meer (Radboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands). The problems in the Hooghe and Scheepers papers of using “national level” diversity as the control variable can be seen when applied to the U.S. context. It would be like assuming that South Dakota, Spanish Harlem, Houston and Beverly Hills all have equal levels of neighborhood diversity in the U.S. Since many countries exhibit different patterns of micro-level integration or segregation one can understand how the national average is an extremely noisy measure of neighborhood diversity. And it seems quite likely that the true relationship between social capital and diversity can’t be seen through all the noise of the resulting national measure. These papers may have interesting things to say, but they can’t have meaningful things to say about whether the “E Pluribus Unum” findings apply to other European countries, which is why the above paper on the Netherlands by the Italian researchers that is referenced at the top of this post is far more relevant to this debate.

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