British Journal of Political Science

Research Article

Does Ethnic Diversity Erode Trust? Putnam’s ‘Hunkering Down’ Thesis Reconsidered

Patrick Sturgis*, Ian Brunton-Smith, Sanna Read and Nick Allum


We use a multi-level modelling approach to estimate the effect of ethnic diversity on measures of generalized and strategic trust using data from a new survey in Britain with a sample size approaching 25,000 individuals. In addition to the ethnic diversity of neighbourhoods, we incorporate a range of indicators of the socio-economic characteristics of individuals and the areas in which they live. Our results show no effect of ethnic diversity on generalized trust. There is a statistically significant association between diversity and a measure of strategic trust, but in substantive terms, the effect is trivial and dwarfed by the effects of economic deprivation and the social connectedness of individuals.

(Online publication November 10 2010)


* The authors are at the following institutions, respectively: Sturgis, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton (email:; Brunton-Smith, Division of Social Statistics, University of Southampton; Read, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; Alum, Department of Sociology, University of Essex.