E Pluribus… Unum?: Multiculturalism, Well-being, and Social Cohesion among Whites and Hispanics in the United States
Multiculturalism has been proclaimed as a failure in several European countries and has been said to divide solidarity in the United States. As many Western nations become increasingly pluralistic, multiculturalism has become one of the most socially and politically divisive issues that has been debated among citizens, scholars, and political leaders, many of which suggest multiculturalism undermines social cohesion. However, a review of the literature suggests that inconsistent findings may be due in part to differences in the conceptualisation of the term multiculturalism. As we argue in the current study, not only is multiculturalism a multi-faceted phenomenon relating to diversity of a population, policy to manage diversity, and ideologies of whether diversity is positive or negative, but also it may have different consequences for minority and majority groups. In the current study we seek to examine how these different conceptualisations of multiculturalism, are related to well-being and social cohesion using a new construct called Subjective Multiculturalism. This measure investigates participants’ perceptions of how multicultural they perceive the United States to be in terms of diversity, policy that promotes equity, and ideology. Results indicate that Whites have higher levels of well-being than Hispanics and are more embedded in society. Results also indicate that perceptions that diversity is positively viewed by Americans predict social cohesion for Hispanics but not for Whites. Overall, findings suggest that multiculturalism does not exert negative effects on well-being or social cohesion, and indeed, in some cases it predicts positive outcomes, particularly for Hispanics.