Wednesday, November 30

A dark side to diversity

We are lucky to live in a very multicultural society in Canada, where our differences are tolerated and celebrated. But can diversity have a dark side?

I am a co-author of a recent working paper, with James Andreoni, Abigail Payne and Justin Smith. Our study, titled Diversity and Donations: The Effect of Religious and Ethnic Diversity on Charitable Givinglooks at the role a neighbourhood's diversity plays in determining how much people donate to charity (the paper is gated, but most people with a university email address should be able to get a free copy from the link above). I encourage anyone who is interested to give it a read and send us any feedback you have (there is also an interesting discussion in the comments feed of the Freakonomics blog).

In neighbourhoods that are more diverse — in terms of ethnicity or in terms of religion — Canadians tend to donate less to charity. This is disappointing, and could have potential implications for public policy. Governments and charities often provide similar types of social services, and if charitable giving decreases down as neighbourhoods continue to diversify, there may be more pressure on government to provide benefits that have historically been provided by charities.