Diversity and Public Goods: The More We Mix, the Better

Yves here. I suspect some readers will try invoking Thomas Schelling to debunk this post. We addressed his famous “tipping point” theory in ECONNED:

Indeed, appealing or impressive theories are often accepted without being validated. In 1971, highly respected economist, game theorist, and future Nobelist Thomas Schelling published an article, “Models of Segregation,” which set forth the concept called the “tipping point.” Schelling developed an elegant analysis using coins of two kinds placed on a game board to simulate mixed-race neighborhoods. He demonstrated that it would take only a small proportion who preferred living with people of the same race to lead to a series of moves that would produce racial segregation. Each set of departures would leave some of the people who remained uncomfortable with the new neighborhood mix, precipitating more departures.

Aside from being a clever and novel approach, Schelling’s explanation may have become popular for darker reasons: after a period of protracted white flight from decaying inner cities, it suggested that perhaps most people weren’t really all that prejudiced; it took only a few bigots to produce ghettos.

Although the theory seemed obviously true in 1971, more recent work by New York University professor of economics William Easterly has found that Schelling’s predictions were for the most part not borne out. Easterly tabulated census tract data from 1970 to 2000 for metropolitan areas and found that whites had departed neighborhoods that were mainly white to a greater degree than they had mixed-race neighborhoods. Easterly did stress that his findings were only a single check of the theory over a particular time frame. But his analysis still serves to illustrate how appealing stories are too often accepted as received wisdom.

By Klaus Desmet, Altshuler Professor of Cities, Regions and Globalisation, Southern Methodist University. Joseph Flavian Gomes, Assistant Professor, Navarra Center for International Development, University of Navarra, and Ignacio Ortuño-Ortin, Professor of Economics, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Originally published at Alternet

Diverse countries tend to have more conflict, lower development, and worse public goods, possibly due to antagonism between groups. Based on recent research mapping local linguistic diversity across the entire globe, this column argues that local interaction with people of other ethnolinguistic groups can mitigate the negative effect of overall diversity on a country’s outcomes in health, education and public goods. This finding lends support to policies that influence the local mixing of ethnolinguistic groups.

Ethnocentrism is ‘in’, and multiculturalism is ‘out’, in many Western democracies. The result of the 2016 presidential election in the US and the victory of Brexit in the UK partly reflect a growing unease among the electorate about living in societies that are increasingly diverse. Likewise, in continental Europe, the refugee situation in Germany is bound to become a central theme in the 2017 national elections. The National Front in France is also likely to benefit in the 2017 presidential election by relating home-grown terrorism to diversity.

Although diversity might be increasingly looked upon with suspicion, paradoxically it is often viewed more negatively in relatively homogenous places than in areas that are already highly diverse. In the Brexit referendum, the perception that there were too many immigrants was especially strong in areas with few foreign residents, and much less so in cosmopolitan London: 85% of UK districts with a lower-than-average share of foreign-born residents voted in favour of leaving the EU, compared to only 44% of the other districts (Lawton and Ackrill 2016). Past US presidential elections showed the same pattern. President Trump’s America-first rhetoric found little echo in the regions of the US with most undocumented immigrants.

These observations are consistent with contact theory. Although individuals may feel antagonism towards other groups in society, that prejudice is less strong if they interact with these groups in their daily lives (Allport 1954). At face value, this suggests that antagonism between groups in the UK would be minimised if every town mirrored the country’s overall diversity. It is not clear, however, that we can say this relationship is causal, or if it generalises to the whole world.

In fact, not everyone agrees with contact theory. The proponents of conflict theory argue the exact opposite: interaction with individuals of other groups is costly and generates greater antagonism. Empirical evidence is inconclusive on which theory prevails.

One reason we should care whether local interaction mitigates or reinforces antagonism is that diverse countries tend to have more conflict, lower development, and worse public goods, and this antagonism would be an explanation. In our recent work, we develop a global database of local language use to investigate how local interaction changes the impact of a country’s overall ethnolinguistic diversity on a country’s public goods outcomes in health, education and infrastructure (Desmet et al. 2016). If it were to mitigate the negative effect of overall diversity, we would interpret this as evidence in favour of contact theory.

The Theory of Local Interaction, Local Learning and Antagonism

Our starting point is a simple framework to measure a country’s antagonism. Suppose that an individual feels antagonism towards another randomly chosen individual in his country if they belong to different ethnolinguistic groups. Averaging across all possible random matches yields an antagonism measure that corresponds to the standard ethnolinguistic fractionalisation index – the probability that two random individuals of a country speak a different language. For example, if we take two Belgians at random, there is a 54% chance that they have a different mother tongue.

So far we have not taken into account local interaction. Now assume that the antagonism an individual feels towards someone from another group in his country is affected by the amount of local interaction he has with people from that group. For example, the antagonism of a Dutch-speaking Belgian towards all French-speaking Belgians in his country depends on how much he locally interacts with French-speaking Belgians. We refer to this additional effect as local learning.1 Depending on whether contact theory or conflict theory dominates, local learning can either mitigate or reinforce the existing antagonism as measured by fractionalisation.

Note that not all local interaction leads to the same amount of local learning. For example, if a Dutch-speaking Belgian interacts with an Italian-speaking Belgian locally, this will not affect overall antagonism much if there are few Italian-speaking Belgians in the rest of the country. In this example, there might be a lot of local interaction, but not much local learning. Hence, what matters for antagonism is the amount of effective learning that occurs because of local interaction.

The Geography of Diversity

Next we measure fractionalisation and local learning in the data. Combining detailed maps from Ethnologue on 6,905 unique languages spoken, and population counts at a fine geographic resolution from Landscan, we created a global database on local language use for each 5km-by-5km grid cell in the world.

This allows us to compute fractionalisation (Figure 1) and average local learning (Figure 2) for all countries. There are many interesting differences. For example, fractionalisation is much higher in Chad than in the Central African Republic, but the reverse is true for average local learning. This is a result of more local mixing in the Central African Republic, as can be seen in Figure 3, which shows local learning for each 5km-by-5km grid cell.

Another example may be useful to clarify the difference between overall fractionalisation and local learning. While fractionalisation is virtually identical in Guatemala (0.53) and Mauritius (0.52), local learning is much lower in Guatemala. In Guatemala indigenous language speakers are concentrated in the central and northwestern highlands, and have limited contact with Spanish speakers. In contrast, Mauritians “switch languages according to the occasion in the way other people change clothes” (Chiba 2006). As a result, our index of local learning was much higher in Mauritius (0.20) than in Guatemala (0.06).

Of course, how local learning affects a country’s overall antagonism depends on whether contact theory or conflict theory is a better explanation. If contact theory is correct, then local learning mitigates the antagonism that comes from fractionalisation. In that case, antagonism would be lower in Mauritius than in Guatemala. The reverse would be true if conflict theory were the dominant force.

Figure 1 Ethnolinguistic fractionalisation

Figure 2 Average local learning

Figure 3 Local learning

Health, Education and Infrastructure

Empirical research has found that ethnolinguistic fractionalisation tends to worsen public goods outcomes (La Porta et al. 1999, Alesina et al. 2003, Desmet et al. 2012). One interpretation is that antagonism makes it hard for a diverse society to agree on public goods. Different groups may fight over which language to use in education, the shape of the road network, or where to put the nation’s main hospitals.

Our discussion suggests that local learning may mitigate or reinforce the overall antagonism coming from a fractionalised society. Hence, we should take the degree of local learning into account when exploring the link between diversity and public goods outcomes. This is what we do in Desmet et al. (2016). Holding overall fractionalisation constant, we find that local learning improved a wide variety of public goods outcomes in health, education and infrastructure.

These results lend support to contact theory. The effects are large. For example, a one-standard-deviation increase in local learning lowers child mortality by 7.4 per thousand live births. To put this figure into perspective, in its effect on child mortality, a one-standard deviation increase in local learning is equivalent to a 61% increase in GDP per capita.

Before jumping to policy conclusions about local mixing, reverse causality is potentially a concern. In societies with poor public goods, individuals from the same linguistic group may prefer to cluster geographically to support each other. If so, this would lead to reverse causality, with public goods outcomes affecting the spatial sorting of individuals of different linguistic groups. To address this concern, we use an instrumental variable approach following Alesina and Zhuravskaya (2011). This allows us to conclude that there is a causal positive effect of local learning on the quality of public goods. Overall, contact theory trumps conflict theory.

Let’s Mix

Going back to our earlier discussion, we can conclude that making each town mirror a country’s overall diversity would improve public goods outcomes. Although in most countries governments do not tell people where to live, there are many policies that would influence the local mixing of ethnolinguistic groups. European governments commonly use social housing to geographically spread ethnic minorities, making neighbourhoods and cities more equal in their diversity. Singapore, where more than 80% of the population lives in public housing, has a quota system ensuring that each housing block resembles the nation’s ethnic make-up. In a different setting, contact theory was also an important argument in the US Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, which led to the racial desegregation of public schools (Putnam 2007). Of course, these policies would be controversial, because they trade off individual freedom of choice with desirable social outcomes.

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  1. RM

    So we acknowledge that people don’t want it, that it increases potential for conflict and it impacts adversely on many aspects of society and yet they want to force more on us – are they mad? What do we have to do to stop them because telling them isn’t working?

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Apply that to wealth diversity.

      Take all the rich people in Beverly Hills and put one in each California town, from Compton to Oakland.

      “Gotta mix them up. Get rich people closer to the poor.”

  2. nonsense factory

    The central flaw in this study is that it ignores the class structure of countries and the role of the difference between rich and poor sectors of societies.

    For example, a good rebuttal to this argument, i.e. that “ethnolinguistic fractionalisation tends to worsen public goods outcomes”, is Switzerland.

    …Swiss multilingualism is maintained by the cultural interactions among the population and the devolved system of governance in which the regions are able to control policies like those of language and education. This allows for the preservation of distinct cultures and identities…


    Despite Switzerland’s high cost of living, and taking into account purchasing power, the financial situation of the Swiss population after deductions for obligatory expenses is “more comfortable” than for people living in neighbouring European countries and much of the EU. And the gap between the rich and poor is less pronounced, the report said.

    In contrast, wealth gaps are skyrocketing in the United States, and this increases social tensions (including racial tensions) and drives segregation-by-wealth. This is very different from Switzerland, while the wealthiest 20 percent in Switzerland earn 4.2 times as much as the poorest 20 percent; the gap in the United States seems closer to 10 (world bank data). See also:

    1. tony

      I see couple of other issues too. One is visible minority status. If you were to try to seriously oppress a minority that looks like you, they could just learn the language and the whole issue would disappear. Another one is compatibility of cultures. Vietnamese refugees around here are respected and well liked. They get jobs, don’t beat up or rape people on the streets, don’t beat their women to submission, don’t mutilate their girls and marry them off to older uncles. Somalis on the other hand are largely despised.

      1. UserFriendly

        Odd, we don’t have that problem with the Somali community in Minneapolis, and we have more of them than you do.

    2. The Rev Kev

      There is another factor at play with Switzerland and that is the military service. I saw myself when I was there that it was a duty for every male to partake in a period of military service with refreshes periods of training held over the years. The citizen-soldiers could be ready to be called up in minutes and their wardrobes would have their uniforms and weapons at the ready.
      Unlike the west, everybody had to do it so that in boot camp you would have rich, poor, French-speaking, German speaking, Catholic, Protestant – everyone. Bonds would form that would cross different sectors of society that would last decades. The Israelis modeled their military system after the Swiss and you have the same phenomena.
      It allows a social cohesion factor that helps bind the individual Cantons together. The Swiss had a referendum a few years ago whether to dump this system and three quarters of the voters said to keep it. I can think of no other institution where those of diverse backgrounds are forced together to make their own bonds and I believe that is a factor that is not to ignored in Switzerland.

      1. Plenue

        Except that Israel is a hotbed of ethnic hatred. The Ashkenazim hate the Mizrahim, both hate Russian Jews, and everyone hates the black Ethiopian Jews. It’s a country kept intact in large part by constant vilification of outside parties. Netanyahu managed to get reelected based mostly on fear-mongering about Iran and by pandering to the increasingly powerful settler block.

  3. Kukulkan

    Allow me to suggest that ethnocentrism is an evolutionary adaptation to deal with scarcity. That way, when competing for resources, individuals will work with those more closely genetically related than with those more distantly related. It’s a larger version of kinship preference.

    So, if you’ve got diversity and you want to create conflict and enhance bigotry, produce conditions of scarcity.

    The various examples of ethnocentric conflict cited tend to be about completion for jobs and pay. Basic supply and demand: if there are a set number of jobs available, then bringing in more workers will increase the competition for those jobs and lower the rate of pay. When things get tough, people pull in and focus on protecting what they have. The only way to avoid that would be if the migrants increase demand enough to offset the increased competition.

    By contrast, if resources are plentiful, then diversity can flourish. There’s enough for everyone, and people can meet and interact, exploring one anothers’ cultures in fruitful and productive ways. If the diversity leads to increase prosperity for everyone — and I mean everyone, not just the top tier(s) of society — then it will be celebrated and considered something valuable.

    So, we’ve had going on forty years of creating scarcity. There aren’t enough jobs. The jobs that still exist have less security and lower pay. And more and more migrants are being brought in to compete for those fewer jobs and crappier conditions.

    Given the theory outlined above, increased ethnocentrism is exactly what you would expect.

    Still, I may be wrong. So, an experiment: Instead of promoting increasing scarcity, why don’t the powers that be try promoting prosperity for everyone. If the level of ethnocentrism continues at the same rate or increases, then we can conclude that it’s all due to bigotry and the personal failings of the people. If it decreases and acceptance of diversity rises, then we can conclude that attributing it all to bigotry is just so much victim blaming.

    I mean, in Britexit, the regions that are doing well voted to remain, while those who are hit by a serious and ongoing deterioration in jobs and conditions voted to leave. But, maybe that’s just a coincidence.

    1. tongorad

      So, if you’ve got diversity and you want to create conflict and enhance bigotry, produce conditions of scarcity.
      So, we’ve had going on forty years of creating scarcity. There aren’t enough jobs. The jobs that still exist have less security and lower pay. And more and more migrants are being brought in to compete for those fewer jobs and crappier conditions

      Ding, ding, ding! Neoliberal scarcity/austerity, increased competition, and mass immigration…how is this social engineering going to result in anything other than a disaster? Especially when all the erstatz left has is scorn and virtue signalling as an answer?

    2. Gman

      Excellent comment.

      It seems so obvious doesn’t it, but there’s none so blind as those who won’t see.

  4. Susan the other

    In parsing out causes for conflict the argument that we are predisposed to separate ourselves from each other due to our ethnic and linguistic differences and this in turn causes conflict due to unfamiliarity seems like the very same argument that contact creates familiarity. So where’s the paradox? Diversity can both create and lessen conflict. Clearly, good language skills help people find common ground. I think there is a deep pleasure in understanding someone else’s language. Like little, astounding, revelations that might not breed familiarity but do breed respect. Late night BBC a few days ago referred to a famous Chinese poet (living) whose metaphor for the concept “hope” was this: (paraphrasing) Hope is like a path in the wilderness – and walking in the wilderness; at first you do not see any hope but gradually as you walk the same path the path itself becomes clear. That one made me puzzle about what we Westerners think hope is. I like the Chinese idea a lot.

    1. makedoanmend

      Ta for this,

      It’s interesting that one can think of hope as an ongoing (never ending?) process.

      Rather, for some unknown reason, I mostly think of hope as a means or manner of sustenance to some desired goal. And, as a means towards an end, I’m all for letting hope out of Pandora’s jar (leaving the jar empty).

      The Chinese poet’s version seems to accommodate a more balanced and possibly stoic interpretation of hope. Finding paths (or patterns) requires clear-headed observation, willingness to risk, acceptance of the opaque, and perseverance. It is a much more amenable version of hope, given our times.

      I suppose this version of hope is still a means but the path analogy given doesn’t seem to indicate a final aim and one has to, by implication, become active as hope is continuously emergent – not a prequisite.

      Given this view, Obama’s hope trope becomes all the more fatuous as time passes.


  5. Adam Eran

    The comment about white flight that precedes the article leaves out an important mechanism encouraging the growth of edge cities: The structure of building fees.

    The central city must charge building fees (or taxes or both) that pay the entire cost of infrastructure and public services. Let’s say that’s $60,000 for an average home in the center city.

    Then developers promise the moon…and jawbs on the moon!…so the politicians (many of whom are beholden to developers) say “Let’s charge these outlying developments less since we’ll get so many economic benefits!”… So they charge $30,000. Who pays the additional $30,000? The central city. Infrastructure didn’t get cheaper because of edge city development…in fact it’s likely more expensive.

    Another ring of “growth” is proposed, and this time the short-sighted policy makers say $10,000 is OK as the cost of building. Who pays the remaining $50,000? Let’s say central city and that first ring of development split it. So here’s the score:

    first ring second ring
    Central city charges: $60,000 + $30,000 + $25,000 = $115,000
    First ring of suburbs: $30,000 + $25,000 = $55,000
    Second ring of ‘burbs: $25,000 = $25,000

    Any wonder that the central city’s infrastructure deteriorates?

    The Congress on New Urbanism also has a nice set of graphs that describes the actual financial viability of various development patterns. Hint: suburbs are not just places where you have to drive roughly twice the vehicle miles traveled, they are also not financially sustainable–they don’t pay for their own infrastructure maintenance….which kind of makes sense since everything uses more material. The commutes, and hence roads, are longer, the sewer runs are longer, the police calls require more driving, even the garbage trucks have to drive farther.

  6. Portia

    The issue I see is that people identify with respect to race, color, language, religion and ideology and feel all at sea when they are not surrounded with that which they feel protects them and is familiar.

    I recently read an article by Elif Batuman where she received veiled threats from cab drivers and unfriendly looks and behavior from Muslims when she did not wear the hijab when she was living and teaching in then-secular Turkey. So, although she is not religious, she wore the hijab to be “polite” and was then treated like a loved daughter and a sister. To me, this is not “politeness”, but a polite lie. She wore the hijab in order to feel accepted, safe and protected.

    Until this issue of divisive racial, religious, color, etc. identity is resolved, the predominant, majority and/or most aggressive group will try to dominate their space in order to feel comfortable and safe.

    1. Portia

      I just reread my comment, and lest anyone think I am singling out Muslims in this sensitive time, I hasten to add that the U.S. is particularly unpleasant with regard to segregation and racism right now, and has been since I can remember growing up in the sixties in Chicago. I was not “allowed” to have inter-racial friendships because of the “discomfort” it caused all parties. It sucked, then and now.

      1. JM Chicago

        A recent book by George Borjas explores immigration statistics in the US.
        It is called “We wanted workers”. He elaborates, economist view labor as cogs in a productive machine “We want workers” but instead we get PEOPLE with their cultures, habits, ideologies, and all of the good and bad of the countries they are fleeing from. The more they leave the cultural identities that are furthest from the new country, the more successful they tend to be. So leave the flags, language, dress at home, dress, act, adopt, assimilate into your new country if you want to be accepted and move up the chain. If you want to maintain your previous culture, it is going to be a longer road.

        He goes on to analyze the importance of assimilation of the immigrants to the new country. His studies conclude optimal immigrants, that avoid “ethnic clustering” and adopt the new countries language, schools and culture, tend to do markedly better. They plop themselves into everyday residential areas, don’t cluster. Yes this is hard…but his studies show, they move faster and faster up the acceptance, wage scales. Someone spoke about Vietnamese assimilating well. I have heard good things about Somalis in Minneapolis. This makes sense. However this brings up another point he concludes is that people (and Ill paraphrase)….the idea that there will be positive “spinoffs” from any type of immigrant is naive.

        Less educated have higher negative spinnoffs and costs that outweigh the benefits

        Perhaps in Minneapolis the Somalis are legal refugees. Perhaps the Somalis in ZH were part of the last wave? I don’t know. But more educate immigrants do far better then less educated ones. Merit based immigration policies are globally accepted for a reason.

        In short, assimilation is critical. I read it in the library one weekend. Plenty of facts, and good data points. Harvard professor. Not towing the narrative.
        All the best

        1. Gman

          ‘somebody’s lower wage is somebody else’s higher profit,’

          Great recommendation and bite size synopsis.

          Thank you.

  7. voislav

    I hate this kind of analysis because it starts with a distorted sample. Countries with high ethnolinguistic fractionalisation are former colonies whose borders were artificially drawn post World War II: Sub-Saharan Africa, India, Indonesia. In Latin America, these are countries where the European colonists failed to exterminate the native population due to particular geographic features (dense jungle of Guatemala and Paraguay, high altitude in Bolivia).

    These diverse countries suffer from a legacy of disadvantage when it comes to economic development, either years of resource and capital extraction by their colonial masters or unfavourable geography that allowed native population to survive in the first place.

    We are comparing them to countries that benefited from that resource extraction (Europe) or that had the benefit of early end of colonial rule (Brazil, Australia, Canada, US for example), where lack of diversity made it easier to form unified opposition to colonial rule.

    Doing the analysis without taking into account these factors makes it correlation vs. causation exercise. In many of these countries diversity and lack of economic development have the same cause, colonial rule. So they are correlated, rather than ethnic diversity causing lack of economic development.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      If I’ve understood you correctly I agree with your analysis of this post.

      The author of this post seems to concentrate on country level “diversity” and statistics — as your comment tacitly notes — and at a country level a lot of post colonial countries seem to have been constructed to assure and maximize conflicts between groups. The measures “Ethnolinguistic fractionalisation”, “Average local learning” and “Local learning” make for interesting ways to slice and dice the problem and data but I’m not sure how much illumination they bring to the analysis. Too much is left out of this contact theory vs conflict theory analysis of diversity.

      I’m not at all tempted to chase down Desmet et al. (2016) to track down all the ways diversity combined with local learning improved public goods outcomes. Not doing so leaves this post with very limited support for the thesis “The More We Mix, the Better.” I’m also confused by the assertion: “To put this figure [“lowers child mortality by 7.4 per thousand live births] into perspective, in its effect on child mortality, a one-standard deviation increase in local learning is equivalent to a 61% increase in GDP per capita.” How does the author come up with this number — and no I don’t feel motivated to find out. The GDP per capita is a squishy number and local learning is a squishy measure to match it with.

      The conclusion moves seamlessly from static data to derive conclusions for dynamic data — from national data to derive conclusions at the local level — the kind of data that comes from actively mixing things up to create “diversity.” From this the author ties the conclusions about “diversity” in terms of the abstract model presented in this post diversity quotas for public housing in Singapore and Brown v. Board of Education in the United States.

      As you point out — the factors related to the colonial history of the “diverse” nations in this study are not captured in the post’s analysis. Past history matters very much at the national levels and at the local levels. The economic situations and relative power between the diverse groups is completely left out of the analysis along with any history of unfairness. I believe a sense of what is “Just” is a powerful and universal human instinct, and I believe injustice in how groups are treated and treat each other plays the key role in intergroup conflicts. Diversity and sponsoring conflicts has long been a tool for dividing us plebes and keeping us in line.

      As far as the post’s conclusion — I like diversity particularly local diversity because I enjoy other ways of doing things other foods and other ways of looking at the world. I value diversity because I enjoy it. I really don’t appreciate econobabel arguing for something I hold dear for its intrinsic value

  8. none

    This makes me think of Yanis Varoufakis’ post about discrimination from a while back. He did an experiment where people played “chicken” over a computer (i.e. they couldn’t see each other or do anything but choose their move in the game). He random assigned half the players “blue” and half “red”, so at each round of the game the players found out their opponent’s color but nothing else about them.

    Result was a lot of the time discrimination emerged, so the red players were consistently playing aggressively against the blue players, or vice versa, which meant that one color emerged as dominant. It was impressive. There’s a body of literature about that now.

  9. ewmayer

    “Diverse countries tend to have more conflict, lower development, and worse public goods, possibly due to antagonism between groups.”

    I wonder to what effect this – if it is indeed true and not some kind of sampling-methodology artifact – can be ascribed to deliberate divide-and-rule practices by the elites, i.e. to a classic tactic of Class Warfare rather than to ‘racist deplorables’. One more reason seeing Team D doubling down on the IdPol reveals just how doomed the hopes of them reforming are.

    1. Gman

      I would suspect, but might be wrong, that the ‘diverse countries’ mainly referred to here are those that probably aren’t the result of immigration in the first place ie the conflicts are long-standing rivalries between long established ethnic groups, and are probably frequently the result of colonial legacy ie the imposing of false borders.

  10. Rosario

    Look at genetics, mixing is absolutely of greatest benefit to the success of a species. I don’t think it would be any different for society.

  11. Temporarily Sane

    Is diversity the main driver of the angst and xenophobia that define these times or is it an economy that serves the FIRE sector and enables billionaires to hoover up ever more wealth while consigning ever more people to a life of debt peonage, permanent insecurity and drudgery?

    Many people look back and see how good, relatively, their parents had it (secure jobs and benefits, able to afford a home and even have time for hobbies and a vacation or two) and know they will probably never enjoy that kind of life.

    At the same time the media and politicians tell them how wonderful the economy is doing this month and praising “diversity” and “inclusivity” to no end while dividing the population into morally impeccable saints who can do no wrong on one side and morally reprehensible oppersors at fault for all the world’s ills on the other based on their gender or ethnic heritage.

    It’s a textbook case of what to do if one wants to foment bitterness, alienation and resentment in a segment of the population and bring the ugly aspects of human nature to the surface. It doesn’t help that people trying to talk honestly about this are often shouted down in the mainstream as racists and misogynists who needs to check their privilege.

    That’s not to say racism and other forms of discrimination do not exist. But playing one “side” off the other is not making things better for anyone involved. Bill Clinton (or his speech writer) was right about one thing; “It’s the economy, stupid.”

    1. David

      The Secretary of Labor position had the authority for the Immigration Department up until WWII. Then it was transferred for “security reasons” to the State Department. The principal criteria for administration and entry was the demand / supply balance for labor until the change in control.

      The Immigration & Naturalization Act of 1965 changed everything in response to increasing union control in the 1950’s and political control of the Democrats based upon the loss of the white vote in the south.

      The fractionalization of the population and encouragement of the illegals unimpeded for decades was by design, to limit control of cohesive European nationalities and cheapen labor by the Neo-Liberal Democrats and Republicans.

  12. S M Tenneshaw

    Ethnocentrism is ‘in’, and multiculturalism is ‘out’, in many Western democracies.

    The melting pot needs to make a comeback.

    1. Jane

      The melting pot concept may be part of the problem, it suggests a need for homogeneity. Much prefer the concept of a ‘stew’ with its rich variety of flavours that enhance each other.

      1. Cujo359

        Many years ago, I saw a discussion between US and Canadian journalists. When they were discussing what we now call multiculturalism, one of the Canadians observed that “If America is like a melting pot, Canada is like minestrone soup”.

        What works best probably will be a long, complicated discussion. There are things about a culture that tie us together. But that shouldn’t mean that we should ignore or forget about what makes us different. For me, the bottom line is this – is Canada’s national identity significantly weaker than ours? If it is, I can’t see it, but questions like that take generations to answer.

        1. Gman

          Could be worse.

          For some benighted members, the EU increasingly looks like a cold lasagne.


  13. HotFlash

    The issue I see is that people identify with respect to race, color, language, religion and ideology and feel all at sea when they are not surrounded with that which they feel protects them and is familiar.

    Hmm, how about if ‘race, color, language, religion and ideology’ are tokens of class? Is that too broad a reading? I am not a sociologist nor anthropologist, but I have observed that people who have, or perceive themselves to have, some status in their community, whatever that may be, from family on up, tend to get defensive in situations that do not acknowledge their view of their own (higher) class. This will take some chewing on.

  14. Altandmain

    Originally published at Alternet

    Just wondering, is the title supposed to be VoxEU and not Alternet?

    Going back to our earlier discussion, we can conclude that making each town mirror a country’s overall diversity would improve public goods outcomes. Although in most countries governments do not tell people where to live, there are many policies that would influence the local mixing of ethnolinguistic groups.

    That’s a very bold conclusion considering the article has indicated that their own data may disagree with it.

    I will say this much, as an immigrant myself, I think that immigration should be selective.

    1. Willingness to assimilate into a nation. (here is an example: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/switzerland-citizenship-muslim-girls-refuse-swim-boys-islam-immigration-europe-a7111601.html)
    2. Education and skills that person brings. Large numbers of unskilled immigrants coming in is not desirable and should be stopped.
    3. Is there really a labor shortage in the nation (versus if it is just rich people exploiting them to get richer, which the current “skills shortage” is all about).
    4. Whether or not that ethnic group has assimilated very well previously.

    Interesting article on this one:

    Otherwise, the best option is to lower immigration and put in place quotas. It is otherwise class warfare on the rest of the population.

    I think that immigration, if done, should be done in moderate numbers, only where there are real labor shortages, and aggressive attempts made at assimilation. Contrary to Canada’s multiculturalism ideal (the idea doesn’t live up to the reality), I’m very happy to have assimilated, but would be uncomfortable if other people don’t assimilate.

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