Delia Baldassarri (New York University)
"Interethnic Relationships in Contemporary Communities: How does diversity affect solidarity and cooperation?"
The increasingly multiethnic nature of modern societies has spurred academic interest in the consequences of diversity. Recently, social scientists have linked ethnoracial diversity to undesirable outcomes, most notably, low levels of social capital, civic engagement, and cooperation. In my presentation, I challenge the current conception and measurement ofdiversity and invite scholars to rethink social capital in complex societies.
First, I reproduce the analysis of Putnam (2007) and show that the association between diversity and self-reported trust is a compositional artifact attributable to residential sorting: nonwhites report lower trust and are overrepresented in heterogeneous communities. The association between diversity and trust is better explained by differences between communities in terms of race/ethnicity, residential stability, and economic conditions; these classic indicators of inequality, not diversity, strongly and consistently predict self-reported trust.
Second, moving beyond observational data, I discuss innovative field-experimental approaches that can be used to investigate the micro-level dynamics that link intergroup contact to solidarity and cooperation. In particular, I report results from a nationwide lost-letter experiment and describe a series of lab-in-the-field behavioral games that I will use to study the micro-mechanisms through which contact promotes or impedes cooperation in diverse communities.