Exploring diversity preferences, part ii

Continued from Part I.

The polite, mainstream view of diversity is that it’s of course very good and valuable. A majority of people seem to either hold this view or are too intimidated to admit they disagree. Why, then, don’t very many people…

  • …racially intermarry?
  • …have a diverse mix of friends?
  • …go to work in highly diverse fields?
  • …live in very diverse neighborhoods?

Here are what I would summarize as the stated and revealed diversity preferences of most people, across five dimensions of diversity.

Diversity type: Racial
Stated preference: strong
Revealed preference: weak

If you say, in mixed company, that you don’t care that much about your neighborhood or company being predominantly white, you might hear audible gasps. Yet, your neighborhood and company are both things you thoughtfully chose. If they are predominantly white, then clearly racial diversity is not that important to you. You’re just not supposed to say it out loud.

Diversity type: Gender
Stated preference: strong
Revealed preference: weak

If you say, in mixed company, that you don’t care that much about your profession or the list of Oscar-winning directors being predominantly male, you might hear audible gasps. Yet it’s unlikely that you or anyone else in the room boycotted your industry or refused to go see movies because of this disparity.

Diversity type: Sexuality
Stated preference: strong
Revealed preference: strong*

This is one where people seem pretty consistent. Those who are vocal supporters of gay rights and the inclusion of non-straight viewpoints probably do tend to have more gay friends and coworkers. But there’s an asterisk there because there just aren’t that many gay people to begin with, so most “allies” are simply likely to wind up with not many gay people in their lives.

Diversity type: Socioeconomic
Stated preference: strong
Revealed preference: weak

It’s fashionable to say you care about the poor, about allowing poor people opportunities to live in middle-class or wealthy areas, and so on. But then when your kids are school-age, all of a sudden they’re in private schools or you’re moving to a new school district. That’s just one example illustrating this pattern, which I see as widespread. Even poor people do their best to move away from other poor people, while complaining that the new places they move to don’t have the same culture as the places they left.

Diversity type: Ideological
Stated preference: weak
Revealed preference: weak

Ideological diversity receives little attention (except from Jonathan Haidt) and as a result there are few if any serious efforts to increase it.

Pro-diversity signaling seems to be a kind of marker that Nice White People wave around to show others how conscientious and with-it they are. It’s like driving a Prius to show how much you care about the environment: it actually does nothing for the environment, and the few important ways you could be helping the environment go unnoticed.

The misalignment between stated and revealed preferences, at least where there is a stated preference FOR something when the revealed preference is NOT FOR it, is a symptom of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is frustrating. It’s even frustrating to be frustrated about hypocrisy, because it’s never a surprise.


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