By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
One of the core narratives of our nation is that we are a melting pot, e pluribus unum and all. Today, however, we see our modern reality as more of a "mosaic" or "quilt" owing to the notion that the pieces don't "melt," but retain their uniqueness. The result is diversity, and a diversity in national origin finds its way into the jury room as well. In venues across the country, Americans with long roots in their home country will find themselves side by side with relatively recent citizens or with the second generation of immigrant families. And when lawyers look at the comparison, they're strongly tempted to believe that those national differences are meaningful. Those beliefs have always been part of the working litigator's toolbox, all the way back to Clarence Darrow's “How to Pick a Jury” in 1936: “He is Irish; that is enough…You should be aware that he is emotional, kindly, and sympathetic...An Englishman is not so good as an Irishman,” however, “he has come through a long tradition of individual rights." "The German," he continues, "is not so keen about individual rights except where they concern his own way of life." Today, those theories are more likely to focus on newer waves. Depending on the region, that might mean Indian or Pakistani, Hmong, Central American, African, or Mexican immigrants.
But are the attributed differences based on national origin reliable? According to one new study, (Taras, Steel & Kirkman, 2016) the answer is "No, they're not." Researchers from North Carolina looked at work-related cultural values based on a meta-analysis of 558 studies focused on individuals from 32 countries. What they found is that 80 percent of the variation in cultural values was within countries and not between them. That means that one cannot equate "country" with "culture," and knowing an individual's country of origin is a poor way of predicting their attitudes. There is still some value in looking at country of origin, but Bradley Kirkman, a leadership and management professor at North Carolina State University, shares in a write-up in ScienceDaily that the main disadvantage in putting an outsized faith in national-origin differences is that it distracts from other more reliable markers of attitudes. "Our results suggest that it may be more appropriate to talk about classes of professions, socioeconomic classes, and free versus oppressed societies, than about cultures of countries." In this post, I will take a look at a few conclusions from this study as they relate to jury selection in diverse venues.