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A Downside to Trustful Communities

April 20, 2012

High-trust communities have their downsides. There tends to be more trust in homogenous, economically stable communities -- a vision of America that doesn't reflect the diversity and dynamism seen as a valuable, even necessary, ingredient for growth.

Contrast a mid-size city like Muncie, Indiana, with a major city, like Los Angeles. In big cities, people are more likely to live alone, to be transient residents, and to be exposed to a wide variety of belief systems. Cities tend to have more economic inequality, and social trust tends to be lower. But big cities also have higher rates of innovation and job creation, according to Richard Florida, author of 'The Rise of the Creative Class' (and editor of our sister site, Atlantic Cities). Florida has pinpointed two characteristics of a place that are associated with innovation: diverse friendships and protest politics.

Four in five Americans live in one of the nation's 366 metropolitan areas, according to the 2010 Census. About one in ten Americans lives in either the New York or Los Angeles metro area. As major urban areas grow, what might this mean for our institutions? How can our institutions adapt to serve a fast-changing, fast-moving, diverse world?

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