IS PROXIMITY DESTINY? The IPI and America's CULTUREDGEsm
As the Interethnic Proximity Indexsm (IPI) Countdown Clock ticks closer to the high-noon tipping point of a multicultural majority America, it becomes all the more imperative to explore and understand the causal relationship between interethnic proximity and the psycho-social values and attitudes of the CulturEdgesm. By creating an interethnic index that measures proximity by cohabitating with or being related to a person of another ethnicity or race, and/or living in an area with a high multicultural density, the IPI index reveals a stunning geo-social portrait of who and where the CulturEdgesm consumers of today and tomorrow are living, working, playing and buying. But how does the IPI connect to the psycho-social lifestyle attitudes and values of the CulturEdgesm?
In other words, does IPI familiarity breed the opposite of contempt?
There is ample anecdotal and scientific evidence that people of different races and ethnicities who live, play and work together are more likely to have positive feelings and attitudes toward other multicultural individuals and groups. Most Americans recognize that the integration of the armed forces during World War II—when for the first time soldiers of different races and ethnicities lived and fought and died together as equals in close quarters—opened the door to the civil rights reforms that followed.
We know that Millennials, who grew up in a demographic reality where no single ethnicity makes up a numeric majority, are generally more accepting of people of other races ands ethnicities than generations that preceded them. We know that the vast majority of Americans live in cities and states where people of different backgrounds are sharing, mixing, merging and marrying to an unprecedented degree—and that a growing percentage of the population is rejecting simplistic labels of race and ethnicity because they see themselves as a dynamic, unique amalgam of many different racial cultural ingredients, all of them equally relevant, resonant and valid. We know that immigrants can repopulate and economically reinvigorate ailing U.S. towns and cities, that intellectual diversity breeds growth and innovation, and that a diverse workforce helps companies better understand and serve their customers in an increasingly multicultural consumer economy.
But it's also true that proximity does not always automatically breed interethnic harmony and culture exchange. In the American South and many places around the world, interethnic proximity has not ended—and in some cases has contributed to—intercultural bias and social conflict. Common sense and recent sociological research share a consensus that interethnic acceptance—like cultural identity itself—is complex, contextual and subject to a wide variety of variations and influences. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology on "the effects of structured cooperative contact on changing negative attitudes toward stigmatized social groups" found that when a student posing as a former mental patient was embedded along with other students in the classroom, the result was a net positive change in the students' impressions and opinions of people with mental problems. A longitudinal study, published in Child Development, of Turkish and German children who were taught together in the same classroom, found that the test subjects where more likely to form positive impressions of children outside their group, although interethnic friendships inside the classroom did not always persist outside of it.
The bottom line is that we are just at the beginning of understanding and measuring the socio-statistical interplay between the IPI and the CulturEdgesm—although there's no reasonable doubt that the economic and social future of the United States is being formulated and forged in places where they overlap and reinforce each other. In their book, Cultivating Democracy: Civic Environments and Political Socialization in America, James G. Gimpel, J. Celeste Lay and Jason E. Schuknecht acknowledge that the attitudinal shifts of Americans experiencing a new cultural and ethnic pluralism and "the demise of a single dominant racial group" will not necessarily happen in the same place at the same time to the same degree.
Due to the record-breaking rate of immigration over the past several decades, the authors wrote, American will have more opportunities for contact with people of other races and ethnicities, which "also means a greater potential for friendship, intermarriage, and a more racially harmonious society. In this sense, it is ironic, although perhaps not surprising, that the social science literature has discovered that many of the same variables responsible for interethnic conflict are, under slightly different conditions, also responsible for improved race relations."
EthniFacts will continue to explore the link between the IPI and CulturEdgesm values and behaviors, but it is now for the first time possible to determine which cities and states are the next in line to join other post IPI tipping point communities—and when. Which is why a statistical mapping that uses numerous intercultural proximity and engagement factors is an essential tool for accurately perceiving and sizing an emerging America today, and into the future.CLICK HERE TO GO BACK