Saturday, March 29, 2008

The blessings of diversity: Only in this age could people get away with claiming that diversity is a crucial asset to society's wellbeing. I gathered data on 82 countries from various sources (e.g., World Factbook) in order to examine the correlates of ethnic heterogeneity. Here are the Pearson correlation coefficients:


Correlations with an index of ethnic heterogeneity

Social welfare expenditures (health and education as % of GDP) -.30*
Income inequality (GINI coefficient) .22*
Per capita GDP -.36*
Male homicide victimization rate .45*
Female homicide victimization rate .37*

* p < .05, one-tail test

In case you're not into statistics, the results indicate that countries with lots of ethnic diversity tend to have governments that spend less on education and health; they are poorer and characterized by greater inequality; and they experience more violence. The larger the absolute value of the correlation, the stronger the connection: the inequality correlation is weak, the male homicide one is moderate.

Conservatives might like less government spending and not care too much about inequality, so it is liberals who should be most concerned about diversity.

Now, I can't claim that the correlations prove that ethnic diversity is causing all these bad things, but I can at least say that they tend to go together: where you see lots of different kinds of people, you often see bad social conditions.

These data were originally used for other projects, so it's not like I cherry picked indicators that would make diversity look bad. I do know that I have never randomly looked at correlations and found that heterogeneity is related to a list of positive social indicators.

Multiculturalists love to blow gas about how great it is to have a real mix of people, but I am still waiting for some demonstrations of it.

6 comments:

SFG said...

Actually I think there was a paper arguing that diversity decreases the size of the welfare state because people feel less empathy for the poor if they are of a different ethnic group.

Anonymous said...

Actually I think there was a paper arguing that diversity decreases the size of the welfare state because people feel less empathy for the poor if they are of a different ethnic group.

Have we become more "diverse?" Yes. Has the welfare state been getting any smaller? No.

SFG said...

The paper was comparing countries across a given time, not single countries across time.

Actually, the welfare state has gotten smaller; witness welfare reform. The security state's gotten bigger, but that's a different story.

Anonymous said...

The paper was comparing countries across a given time, not single countries across time.

Actually, the welfare state has gotten smaller; witness welfare reform. The security state's gotten bigger, but that's a different story.

I'm not limiting the "welfare" state to traditional welfare. I am including AA, immigration issues, education spending increases and all the other stuff that goes along with providing "services" to less than capable minorities. Which we have an increasing amount of. If that has gotten smaller, than it is being hidden well. Maybe I should pick a new term for this enitre apparatus. Sorry for your confusion.

rex said...

Joel Waldfogel has a article in Slate where he (inadvertently) explains how diversity comes at the expense of variety:

Ten years ago, I started studying radio-station listening patterns. I noticed that people listened to the radio more in metro areas of the United States with relatively large populations. This is not terribly surprising. In larger cities, more stations can attract enough listeners and advertising revenue to cover their costs and stay on the air. With more to choose from on the dial, residents tune in more. So, in this situation of high fixed costs (each station needs a following to keep broadcasting), people help one another by making more options viable.

But who benefits whom? When I looked at black and white listeners separately, I noticed something surprising. Blacks listen more in cities with larger black populations, and whites listen more in cities with larger white populations. Black listening does not increase where there's a higher white population, and white listening does not increase with a higher black population. Which means that while overall people help each other by increasing the number of stations on the dial, blacks do not help whites, and whites do not help blacks. Similar patterns arise for Hispanics and non-Hispanics.

A closer look at the data—necessary only because I'm a middle-aged white economist—showed why this was happening. Blacks and whites don't listen to the same radio stations. The black-targeted formats account for about two-thirds of black listening and only 3 percent of white listening. Similarly, the formats that attract the largest white audiences, like country, attract almost no blacks. This means that if you dropped Larry the Cable Guy and a few thousand of his friends from a helicopter (with parachutes) into a metro area, you'd create more demand for country and perhaps album-rock stations, which would be nice for white listeners. But the influx wouldn't help black listeners at all.

res said...

I should add that Waldfogel in his article cheerfully elides the obvious conclusion about the costs of diversity and clumsily shoe-horns his data into an anti-market diatribe instead.