Demography and the End of Diversity?

“Diversity” has become the touchstone of contemporary liberalism, rivaling even equality as its first principle, though of course the two can co-exist. Democrats have placed all their chips on diversity, seeing the rising coalition of minorities and elite white professionals as their ticket to political dominance at some point in the future (the Teixeira-Judis hypothesis). A lot of Trump’s white voters in the midwest are old and will start to die off soon, so eventually demographics will deliver the country to Democrats.

But what if diversity doesn’t actually work out that way? What if the “diverse” constituencies come to distrust each other? Robert Putnam, the man who got us to worry about solitary bowlers, was the first to note social science data that found that increasing diversity results in higher levels of social distrust—not what liberals want to hear:

[I]mmigration and ethnic diversity tend to reduce social solidarity and social capital. New evidence from the US suggests that in ethnically diverse neighbourhoods residents of all races tend to ‘hunker down’. Trust (even of one’s own race) is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friends fewer.

Putnam, being a good liberal, thought or hoped this would prove a temporary phenomenon, and that eventually our diverse identity groups would sing Kumbaya together just like an ethnic studies department faculty meeting. (Heh.)

Now comes Psychology Today with a story about new research that shows that minority groups may become more conservative if they view other rising minority groups as potential competition:

This pair [J.A. Richeson and M.A. Craig] has a new paper coming out that asks an equally interesting question: when learning that another minority group (e.g. Hispanics) is growing in size, do other minority groups (e.g. Black Americans, Asian Americans) similarly become more conservative? This is a serious possibility — when faced with threats people often become more right-leaning in ideology and more strenuously defend the status quo (or “the system”) (see Jost et al., 2003). And those with less power and status can be invested in making sure that the system does not change, because change can worsen an already disadvantaged position (Jackman, 2005). Minority groups, therefore, can often become competitive with each other as they struggle to keep (or not lose) their group position. This can promote resistance to change in the status quo.

In their new paper, Craig and Richeson (in press) exposed non-Hispanic minorities (e.g. Blacks, Asians) in the U.S. to information suggesting that: (a) Hispanic populations are growing; or (b) people are moving location but not necessarily growing in group size (i.e., a control condition). Their results reveal a clear pattern. As was true for Whites, when learning that other racial groups are growing in size, racial minorities also shift to the right and become more conservative in ideology. Becoming a smaller group, therefore, threatens those in a numerical majority or minority. This threat encourages people to endorse a status quo that emphasizes tradition and reliance on intergroup hierarchies. . .

[T]he findings of Craig and Richeson (2014) suggest that if these trends continue Whites will shift further to the right (and thus bolster support for Republicans). And the Craig and Richeson (in press) findings suggest that although minorities tend to lean toward Democrat candidates, this is likely to change, whereby Black and Asian voters may become more conservative as the Hispanic population grows.

This only scratches the surface. If you view government as a primary spoils system, then the zero-sum nature of it will cause infighting among the spoils-seekers. We can already see this at work in California, where the move to reinstate affirmative action admissions in public universities was sailing along until Asian Democrats in the state legislature, under pressure from their constituents, opposed the change.

Maybe this partly explains why Trump got a higher share of the Hispanic and black vote than Romney or McCain did?

But always keep in mind my favorite headline of the 2016 campaign:


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