Publication Date




Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Sociology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Jomills H. Braddock

Second Committee Member

Marvin P. Dawkins

Third Committee Member

Alejandro Portes

Fourth Committee Member

Koren Bedeau


Issues of racial and ethnic separation and inequality are evidenced in both past and current patterns of segregation within and across major U.S. social institutions. In education, for example, between 1980 and 2010, the percentage of Black and Latino students enrolled in 90-100% minority schools increased from 33% and 29%, to 38% and 43%, respectively (Orfield, Kuscera, and Sigel-Hawley 2012). In housing, while most major U.S. cities have experienced a decline in Black-White residential segregation over the past forty years, the average concentration of Blacks in urban neighborhoods exceeds fifty percent; in suburban areas, the typical Black resident lives in a neighborhood where the local population of Blacks exceeds the metropolitan area proportion by almost 30 percentage points (Glaeser and Vigdor 2012). The persistence of segregated schools and neighborhoods limits the opportunities for different race/ethnic groups to interact, confer unequal rewards and resources (Moody 2001; Quillian and Campbell 2003; Kurlaender and Yun 2005), and perpetuates a cycle of disadvantage, inequality, and social tension between race-ethnic groups, undermining the potential for minority social mobility in a diverse society (Braddock 1980; Braddock and McPartland 1989; Braddock and Gonzalez 2010; Stearns 2010). We have considerable research evidence on the benefits of exposure to diversity in regard to preparing individuals for living in a multiethnic democratic society. However, our knowledge of the impact of diversity on communities or on society at large is limited. This is, in part, a result of an imbalanced focus in most previous studies that failed to adequately consider social contexts writ large, rather focusing on individual-level outcomes. To expand the knowledge base in this area, I examine the impact of diversity in institutional contexts, or meso-level diversity, on key community-level outcomes. Following the logic of previous theory and empirical research, my dissertation examines three broad research questions: (1) Does meso (institutional) diversity, net of macro (metropolitan) diversity affect community social cohesion and economic productivity?; (2) Is the effect of macro (metropolitan) diversity on community social cohesion and economic productivity mediated by meso (institutional) diversity; (3) Is the effect of macro (metropolitan) diversity on community social cohesion and economic productivity conditional on meso (institutional) diversity or economic inequality? I utilize a unique data set to analyze how metropolitan diversity, and the institutional contexts (neighborhoods and schools) of diversity, impacts social cohesion and economic productivity and well-being across a broad sample of U.S. metropolitan areas. The first focal independent variable, metropolitan- or macro-level diversity, is measured through a multi-group diversity score, and describes the proportion of minority race/ethnic groups within metropolitan areas. The second focal independent variable, institutional or meso-level diversity, is analyzed as a mediating and moderating factor of the relationship between macro-level diversity and the dependent variables. Meso-level diversity is measured by a multi-group entropy index, describing how groups are distributed across neighborhoods or schools within the larger metropolitan area. The first focal dependent variable, social cohesion, reflects individuals’ attitudes and behaviors toward other racial groups and their attitudes toward their community. Social cohesion is measured through several indicators, including attitudinal or social psychological factors, such as interracial trust, social trust, and sense of community belonging, and behavioral indicators, such as racial bridging ties through friendships and group involvement. I measure economic productivity through per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Economic well-being is operationalized using a measure of the skill gap in the labor market, and the education gap index, which describes the gap between a metropolitan area’s demand for educated workers and the supply of educated workers in the same area. The analysis proceeds in two main steps: a mediation analysis will assess how meso-level diversity may help explain the relationship between macro-level diversity and the dependent variables. The two-part moderation analysis will assess (1) how the relationship between diversity and the dependent variables may be contingent upon community socioeconomic status, and (2) how the impact of macro-level diversity on the dependent variables is conditioned by the relative level of meso-diversity within communities. Results from OLS regression analysis indicate that the impact of macro-level diversity on attitudinal dimensions of social cohesion are mainly negative, but this effect is counterweighed by the consistent positive impact of meso-level diversity. For racial bridging ties, the behavioral dimensions of social cohesion, macro- and meso-level diversity have a strong positive effect. Macro-level diversity increases overall economic productivity, but decreases economic well-being, yet meso-level diversity, in part, compensates for the negative impact on economic well-being by decreasing the skill gap and education gap. The mediating role that meso-diversity plays in the relationship between macro-level diversity and the dependent variables seems to be significantly conditioned by the level of economic inequality of communities, to the extent that the significance of the negative impact of macro-level diversity is nearly eliminated for racial trust and economic well-being. Among communities with greater meso-level diversity, the negative impact of macro-level diversity on the attitudinal dimensions is lessened (though results for racial trust are mixed) and strengthened for behavioral dimensions of social cohesion. With the exception of the education gap index, the relationship between macro-diversity and economic outcomes is also shaped by communities’ meso-level diversity: within high meso-level diversity communities, the negative impact of macro-diversity on the skill gap is considerably weaker, though the positive impact of macro-diversity on per capita income is also weaker. Overall, this study makes a contribution to diversity effects research by documenting the consistent positive impact of K-12 school and neighborhood diversity on the social and economic well-being of U.S. communities. Directions for future research and policy implications are discussed.


institutional diversity; social cohesion; economic outcomes; desegregation; K-12 diversity; macro-level analysis