Case study

Can diversity foster integration?

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Author: Neli Demireva, University of Essex, and Anthony Heath, University of Oxford

Date: 7 January 2015

Type of case study: Research

About the research

Recently there has been an increase in studies investigating the relationship between ethnic diversity and outcomes such as social cohesion and civic mindedness. In many cases, it is sometimes implicitly assumed that diversity has opposite effects on the majority and on minorities respectively.

This research, using data from British neighbourhoods, aims to bring some objectivity to the debate by addressing several common problems in this field and elaborating on the experiences of both white British and ethnic minority respondents. It also compares the ways in which both the majority and the minority groups respond to ethnic diversity. Results show that conflict at the neighbourhood level, along with individual factors, is a much stronger predictor of the deterioration of social cohesion than diversity. The research also shows that contacts with people who belong to an ethnic group other than your own have a positive effect on cohesion outcomes, such as willingness to help neighbours and trust. Moreover, contrary to policy concerns, bonding with people from your own minority group leads a greater sense of belonging to Britain rather than to one’s own ethnic group.

About the data

This research draws on data from the British Election Study Ethnic Minority Survey, 2010.

These data were key to the study as they have a very large minority sample of respondents and they cover a wide range of outcome measures related to civic culture, interest in politics and cohesion.

The study also draws on data from the Managing Cultural Diversity 2010, Oxford Diversity Project.

Methodology

In this study the logit link was used to measure the relationship between variables.  It was taken into account that several individuals belong to the same neighbourhood unit by correcting our standard errors for the clustering of the residuals. Observations for which the response ‘No answer’ has been given for any of our dependent or independent variables have been deleted from the sample. The results are interpreted as average marginal effects, computed at different values of the X variables with the average of all these values then taken – an improvement on the mean-based approach, which in the case of dummy variables uses intermediary non-existent values. For continuous variables, the approach adopted is to measure the effect of the change from the 10th percentile to the 90th percentile of our continuous explanatory variables (that is, diversity, IMD and age) averaged across different values of the other explanatory variables to avoid sensitivity to the extreme values at the tails of the distributions. 

Publications and outputs

Demireva, N. and A. Heath (2014) ‘Diversity and the Civic Spirit in British Neighbourhoods: An Investigation with MCDS and EMBES 2010 Data’, Sociology, pp.1-20. doi: 10.1177/0038038513516695. Retrieved 28 July 2014 from http://soc.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/01/31/0038038513516695.full  

This study also received coverage in the media:

Demireva, N. (27 February 2014) ‘Can diversity be a positive influence in encouraging integration?’, Society Central. Retrieved 28 July 2014 from: http://societycentral.ac.uk/2014/02/27/can-diversity-be-a-positive-influence-in-encouraging-integration/

Demireva, N. (28 February 2014) ‘Diversity 'A Positive Factor in Cementing Integration', Eastern Eye.

Dugan, E. (31 January 2014) ‘Living in mixed communities ‘makes people feel British’’, The Independent. Retrieved 28 July 2014 from: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/living-in-mixed-communities-makes-people-feel-british-9100347.html

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