Wednesday, 30 January 2013

What if diversity makes us miserable?

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A happy attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.” [Herm Albright, 1876 – 1944]

So what really makes you happy?

Some people think they know. ‘Happiness research’ has become increasingly fashionable. Lots of wonks with clipboards have been asking what makes us happy.

And the wonks all seem to come to same conclusions. In the words of Jessie J, “It’s not about the money”. Want to be happy? Get a job you care about – and friends that matter to you.

But the wonks also found something else. More diverse communities tend to be less happy*. For a country that is becoming more diverse – with a growing older population, more income inequality and increasing ethnic diversity, this should worry us.

It should also make us angry. The research shows that this decline of happiness goes away entirely if people in these communities get to know each other. And yet our public services, housing allocation and habits seem designed to minimise the spaces where we really meet people different from us in income, age and ethnicity. Unless we want our children to grow less happy than us, this must change.

* Okulicz-Kozaryn, Adam, 2011. “Does Religious Diversity Make Us Unhappy?” Mental Health, Religion & Culture 14(10), pp. 1063–1076 

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