Head of Research Ben Southwood writes for CityAM on new ASI briefing paper “The Ties that Bind: Analysing the relationship between social cohesion, diversity and immigration”:
The political scientist Robert Putnam famously found that Americans “hunker down” in the face of social diversity, doing less in the community and trusting people less – even their own compatriots.
When Nigel Farage suggested that one reason kids tend not to play on the street nowadays was immigration, he was voicing a common concern: that immigrants undermine social trust and social cohesion.
Trust and social cohesion are important on more than just one level – they are a crucial correlate of output, living standards and growth. If immigration did undermine trust, it would be a major argument against it. But it’s not clear that the data can support this objection, whatever people’s anecdotal experience might seem to show.
A new Adam Smith Institute briefing paper out today “The Ties that Bind: An analysis of the relationship between social cohesion, diversity, and immigration” looks broadly to see if Putnam’s result is held up by the wider research. There is some (albeit conflicting) evidence that immigration and diversity undermine generalised trust – how much people in society trust other random people in society.
The paper, “The Ties that Bind: An analysis of the relationship between social cohesion, diversity, and immigration”, is a comprehensive review of the academic literature on the relationship between immigration and social cohesion in the Europe, the UK and the United States.
It concludes that higher levels of diversity only lead to a slight negative impact on generalized trust within UK communities; however, there is virtually no evidence to suggest that diversity undermines other measures of social cohesion, including civic participation, trust in authority and volunteer work in the UK. Furthermore, the paper finds that if other factors are controlled for – including neighborhood status and economic deprivation – the negative relationship between diversity and cohesion often disappears.