CONTACTTRAFFICABOUT TOM VANDERBILTOTHER WRITING CONTACT ABOUT THE BOOK

Does Diversity Lead to More Driving?

I was reading Robert Putnam’s now rather famous paper from the journal Scandinavian Political Studies, “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century,” the one that found, to the dismay of people like Putnam himself, that “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.”

There has been, as you might imagine, a lot of response to Putnam’s work, which I won’t get into here. But I was struck to notice, half-way through the paper, this fragment:

“Across American census tracts, greater ethnic heterogeneity is associated with lower rates of car-pooling, a social practice that embodies trust and reciprocity.”

The source is this paper, by Charles and Kline. It’s fire-walled, so I can’t read it. But Tim Harford gives the gist, noting how car-pooling as an activity is an interesting proxy for the elusive concept of “social capital”:

“And so we return to car-pooling. It is not a bad measure of a certain kind of social capital: car-pooling does not work without trust. Can you trust your fellow travellers not to be late, drive badly, or murder you? Whatever it is, social capital would seem to help you get a lift. Economists Kerwin Charles and Patrick Kline have just published a paper about car-pooling and social capital, and there’s a twist. Charles and Kline want to understand how the local racial mix affects social capital. They predict that, for instance, African-Americans will find it easier to car-pool if they live in an area with lots of other African-American, following a battery of tedious but handy statistical tests, this is exactly what they find.

They also find that not all racial differences present the same barrier to car-pooling. Asians who are a minority in a chiefly white area car-pool more than Asians who are a minority in a chiefly African-American area. African-Americans and Hispanics seem to find it similarly easy to get along. But neither whites in a largely African-American area nor African-Americans in a largely white area tend to car-pool. There is such a thing as social capital, and if you live in an area full of people with the same colour skin as you, it seems you will enjoy more of it.”

I’m not sure how good the data are, etc., or what other factors might be lurking there, but it’s a curious finding nonetheless. And I’m not how sure how this data relates to informal car-pooling, like “slugging” in San Francisco.

Traffic in general presents perhaps an extreme version of what Putnam is describing: You’re surrounded by people you don’t know, who are different from you, and in general there’s few outlets for trust and reciprocity, because you’ll never see these strangers again. As Putnam writes, “Social psychologists and sociologists have taught us that people find it easier to trust one another and cooperate when the social distance between them is less.”

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]

This entry was posted on Friday, December 12th, 2008 at 5:09 pm and is filed under Etc., Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “Does Diversity Lead to More Driving?”

  1. Peter Says:

    so, if i understand the last paragraph correctly, and i’m far from sure i do, then we’re suggesting that driving is anti-social, thus anti-driving….si?

  2. Peter Says:

    duh….anti-social, thus anti-human?

  3. Richard Green Says:

    Huh, my subjective personal observations in Australia saw completely different correlation, unrelated to the causation.

    Since the source of ethnic diversity in Australia has always been migration, and migrants rarely came from car cultures, they tend to settle where public transport was good….and then use it.

Leave a Reply

Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

Please send tips, news, research papers, links, photos (bad road signs, outrageous bumper stickers, spectacularly awful acts of driving or parking or anything traffic-related), or ideas for my Slate.com Transport column to me at: info@howwedrive.com.

For publicity inquiries, please contact Kate Runde at Vintage: krunde@randomhouse.com.

For editorial inquiries, please contact Zoe Pagnamenta at The Zoe Pagnamenta Agency: zoe@zpagency.com.

For speaking engagement inquiries, please contact
Kim Thornton at the Random House Speakers Bureau: rhspeakers@randomhouse.com.

Order Traffic from:

Amazon | B&N | Borders
Random House | Powell’s

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
U.S. Paperback UK Paperback
Traffic UK
Drive-on-the-left types can order the book from Amazon.co.uk.

For UK publicity enquiries please contact Rosie Glaisher at Penguin.

Upcoming Talks

April 9, 2008.
California Office of Traffic Safety Summit
San Francisco, CA.

May 19, 2009
University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies
Bloomington, MN

June 23, 2009
Driving Assessment 2009
Big Sky, Montana

June 26, 2009
PRI World Congress
Rotterdam, The Netherlands

June 27, 2009
Day of Architecture
Utrecht, The Netherlands

July 13, 2009
Association of Transportation Safety Information Professionals (ATSIP)
Phoenix, AZ.

August 12-14
Texas Department of Transportation “Save a Life Summit”
San Antonio, Texas

September 2, 2009
Governors Highway Safety Association Annual Meeting
Savannah, Georgia

September 11, 2009
Oregon Transportation Summit
Portland, Oregon

October 8
Honda R&D Americas
Raymond, Ohio

October 10-11
INFORMS Roundtable
San Diego, CA

October 21, 2009
California State University-San Bernardino, Leonard Transportation Center
San Bernardino, CA

November 5
Southern New England Planning Association Planning Conference
Uncasville, Connecticut

January 6
Texas Transportation Forum
Austin, TX

January 19
Yale University
(with Donald Shoup; details to come)

Monday, February 22
Yale University School of Architecture
Eero Saarinen Lecture

Friday, March 19
University of Delaware
Delaware Center for Transportation

April 5-7
University of Utah
Salt Lake City
McMurrin Lectureship

April 19
International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (Organization Management Workshop)
Austin, Texas

Monday, April 26
Edmonton Traffic Safety Conference
Edmonton, Canada

Monday, June 7
Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals
Niagara Falls, Ontario

Wednesday, July 6
Fondo de Prevención Vial
Bogotá, Colombia

Tuesday, August 31
Royal Automobile Club
Perth, Australia

Wednesday, September 1
Australasian Road Safety Conference
Canberra, Australia

Wednesday, September 22

Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s
Traffic Incident Management Enhancement Program
Statewide Conference
Wisconsin Dells, WI

Wednesday, October 20
Rutgers University
Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation
Piscataway, NJ

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Ontario Injury Prevention Resource Centre
Injury Prevention Forum
Toronto

Monday, May 2
Idaho Public Driver Education Conference
Boise, Idaho

Tuesday, June 2, 2011
California Association of Cities
Costa Mesa, California

Sunday, August 21, 2011
American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Attitudes: Iniciativa Social de Audi
Madrid, Spain

April 16, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Gardens Theatre, QUT
Brisbane, Australia

April 17, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Centennial Plaza, Sydney
Sydney, Australia

April 19, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Melbourne Town Hall
Melbourne, Australia

January 30, 2013
University of Minnesota City Engineers Association Meeting
Minneapolis, MN

January 31, 2013
Metropolis and Mobile Life
School of Architecture, University of Toronto

February 22, 2013
ISL Engineering
Edmonton, Canada

March 1, 2013
Australian Road Summit
Melbourne, Australia

May 8, 2013
New York State Association of
Transportation Engineers
Rochester, NY

August 18, 2013
BoingBoing.com “Ingenuity” Conference
San Francisco, CA

September 26, 2013
TransComm 2013
(Meeting of American Association
of State Highway and Transportation
Officials’ Subcommittee on Transportation
Communications.
Grand Rapids MI

 

 

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Twitter
December 2008
M T W T F S S
« Nov   Jan »
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031