18:47 GMT27 October 2020
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    A likely explanation is to be found in human nature, as people seem to derive trust from the similarity of their environment, which they see as an indicator of shared norms and beliefs. Therefore, trust tends to be lower in ethnically diverse settings, where ethnicity most often stands out visibly.

    A new peer-reviewed study by Danish academics has found that ethnic diversity has a negative impact on communities, eroding trust.

    In their joint study, “Ethnic Diversity and Social Trust: A Narrative and Meta-Analytical Review”, Peter Thisted Dinesen and Merlin Schaeffer from the University of Copenhagen and Kim Mannemar Sønderskov from Aarhus University sought to answer whether “continued immigration and corresponding growing ethnic diversity” had a positive impact on togetherness and unity, yet found the opposite to be the case.

    The crew studied existing literature and carried out a meta-analysis of 1,001 estimates from 87 studies from countries such as the US, Sweden, Norway, and New Zealand, finding a “statistically significant negative relationship between ethnic diversity and social trust across all studies”.

    “And just to be clear, the overall negative relationship between residential ethnic diversity and social trust is statistically significant and holds up when conditioning on a range of potential confounders and moderators,” Peter Thisted Dinesen tweeted.

    ​A range of theoretical accounts have been put forward to explain the negative relationship between ethnic diversity and the various types of social trust, the researchers stressed. As a common basis, most accounts implicitly or explicitly assume that people partly infer the trustworthiness of others based on cues from their local environment, including the ethnic background of other people they encounter in this context.

    In other words, people tend to trust those who are different from themselves less, due to similarity being an indicator of shared norms and other behaviour-regulating features relevant for establishing trust. Because ethnicity is most often a highly visible cue of similarity, social trust is therefore predicted to be lower in ethnically diverse settings, where such cues are more frequent.

    “Extant studies have relatively consistently reported a significant negative relationship between neighbourhood-level ethnic diversity and various forms of social trust,” the researchers stressed.

    Their study was hailed by fellow researchers.

    “Higher diversity is significantly associated with lower trust in communities, even when controlling for deprivation,” Eric Kaufmann, a professor of politics at Birkbeck University of London tweeted.

    ​Tom var der Meer, a professor of political science at the University of Amsterdam and the author of the book “It's not the voter who is crazy”, called the study “excellent and conclusive”.

    ​In late September, Peter Thisted Dinesen held a lecture on immigration and social trust in contemporary Western societies called “Diverse and Disunited”.

    Over the past decade, the idea of diversity being the greatest strength has been embraced and promoted by top-tier politicians such as Barack Obama, Theresa May and Justin Trudeau, but also celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and multinational corporations such as Apple.

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