Community diversity: the value of social interaction in public places

In 2007 the Harvard political scientist, Robert Putnam published a paper stating that ethnic diversity in a community is associated with more mistrust. His paper was influential with governments, both in the UK and the US. In Radio 4's All in the Mind (Chapter 2), Professor Miles Hewstone from Oxford University, talks about his new research which finds Putnam's bleak conclusions about society are wrong......

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01j5mym

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Comment by Wolfgang Kuchler on September 14, 2012 at 0:18

It's disturbing but sobering to think that Putnam's research could have been influential, it weighs against a mountain of anecdotal and even electoral evidence, and would be very hard to "control" in the experimental sense, for example, for pre-existing dispositions to mistrust. The anecdotal evidence that I share with many others who have been active in community and residents' organisations, is in line with Miles Hewstone's. The radio discussion was necessarily limited but the issue of whether interaction happens at all is influenced by the nature of public spaces (which I am guessing is a subject you are keen on) but crucially also institutions - where people are brought together and need to interact to a degree, such as schools. Current educational policy and middle class parental choices mean that many schools are more socially segregated which influences their neighbourhoods via the housing market. Those same parents may aspire to a diverse community and enjoy the interactions available in public space, but can still end up living in (very nice) ghettos, as the social/educational segregation has a major race element in most cities.

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