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Initially threatened by change, people adapt to societal diversity over time

Source: Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

With time, people can adapt to societal diversity and actually benefit from it, according to a new study. Those in power especially set the tone for integrating people into a new society.

The research team examined 22 years of psychological, sociological, and demographic data from multiple waves of the World Values Survey, the European Social Survey, and the Latino Barometer Survey. Together the three datasets included more than 338,000 respondents interviewed in more than 100 countries.

The investigators combined various measures of life satisfaction, happiness, and health to create a quality of life index" for respondents to each survey. Then, they examined the association between this index and religious diversity. Unlike ethnicity and race, which aren't always collected in surveys and are often measured using divergent categories, religion is well recorded using comparable categories. Religion is a convenient way to look at the issue of social diversity.

The researchers analyzed the short-term effects of religious diversity on quality of life as perceived by individuals at different points in time but also assessed the long-term effects of diversity on quality of life in different countries over longer spans of time.

Although religious diversity was negatively associated with quality of life among individuals in the short run, it bore no association with the quality of life across countries, in the long run, a finding that was confirmed in each dataset.

They found that over short two-year periods rising religious diversity acted to reduce social trust, and thereby undermined the quality of life. Over a longer twelve-year period, however, diversity led to greater intergroup contact that increased social trust to offset the negative short-term influence of diversity on quality of life.


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