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Ethnic Enclaves, Niches and Local Area Vulnerability

Diversity and Social Cohesion

Since the seminal work of the American political scientist, Robert Putnam (2007) many papers have looked at the relationship between generalized trust and diversity usually using cross-sectional survey data. The results have been mixed. A lot of the studies relying on US data report a negative association between increasing diversity and trust. In the early 2000s, Alesina and La Ferrara (2002) looked at the General Social Survey and found evidence that racial fragmentation is strongly and negatively associated with generalized trust but not with trust in institutions. The negative effect of racial fragmentation appeared to be sticky and to extend to a variety of public policy and social cohesion outcomes (Alesina and La Ferrara, 2005). Using the Social Capital Benchmark Study, Putnam (2007) painted a vivid picture of the deterioration of social life and the fracturing of social glue in the US with increasing diversity identified as one of the main culprits. In Europe, some survey research is similarly pessimistic (Gesthuizen et al., 2009, Meer and Tolsma, 2014, Tolsma and Van der Meer, 2017, Dinesen et al., 2020); while some studies point to a range of possible explanations including socio-economic disadvantage, lack of contact between groups that can foster reliability (Demireva and Heath, 2014, Laurence and Heath, 2008, Becares et al., 2011, Sturgis et al., 2014). Even with Putnam’s Social Capital Benchmark Study data, some authors reach different conclusions. For example, Abascal and Baldassarri (2015) contest the negative effect ascribed to ethno-racial diversity showing that non-whites and immigrants are less trusting than native-born whites; and the compositional effect of them being relatively concentrated in heterogeneous communities should not be underestimated – pre-existing attitudinal differences together with residential sorting in their view are responsible for the ecological association between diversity and trust. However, their approach of controlling for both the ethno-racial diversity and the proportion of white in local areas has been contested (Dinesen et al., 2020).

Perceived Diversity

Research has demonstrated that perceived levels of diversity can also matter. Schaeffer and Koopmans (2016) find that perceived diversity can be negatively associated with trust but not in countries that encourage multiculturalism such as the Netherlands. Semyonov et al. (2012) show that perceived diversity can also be tightly related to perceptions of threat.

Ethnic Enclave

Migrants may not spread randomly in the receiving society. Their settling patterns can be constrained by housing availability, discrimination, prices (Fryer et al., 2013) that can persist in subsequent generations as well. Migrants and minorities may concentrate in less desirable areas as they are cheaper, through a higher reliance on social housing (Semyonov and Glikman, 2009), or can be pushed there by housing discrimination (Boeri et al., 2015). Migrants and minorities may also seek out ethnic enclaves as they can provide shelter from discrimination, and may provide ethnic goods and positive social and cultural connections (Bécares et al., 2009, Portes and Zhou, 1993, Zhou, 1994, Zhou, 2005). These areas, however, are often more deprived and can provide fewer good job prospects (Feng et al., 2015). It is therefore important to account for selection into ethnic enclaves when estimating their impact (Andersson et al., 2013, Boeri et al., 2015, Damm, 2009, Edin et al., 2003).

Extension of this Research Framework in MISOC

In a recent paper, Dr Demireva together with Dr. Zwysen examines whether living in perceived ethnic enclave is associated with negative labour market or social outcomes using data 2002 and 2014 waves of the European Social Survey. We find little evidence of threat to the economic power of majority members but residing in ethnic enclaves ss associated with poorer labour market outcomes for migrants and with job opportunities in the second generation. The ethnic enclave is associated with political threat to majority members as well.


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