Together and Apart: the Dynamics of Ethnic Diversity, Segregation and Social Cohesion among Young People and Adults

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Social Sciences

Abstract

Rising ethnic diversity across countries is becoming a highly-charged issue. This is leading to intense academic, policy, and public debate, amid concerns that diversity may pose a threat to social cohesion. Within these debates, residential communities are increasingly seen as key sites across which both fractures may emerge, but also where opportunities for building cohesion exist. In light of this, research showing diverse communities weaken cohesion is worrying. Yet, there is a potentially key omission from this work: the role of residential segregation. While studies largely focus on the size of ethnic groups in an area they rarely explore whether the level of segregation in the area matters; that is, how (un)evenly ethnic groups are spread across it. This project aims to advance our understanding of the role segregation plays for cohesion alongside diversity; in particular, exploring what occurs at the intersection of the two: is it only in 'diverse and segregated' areas (where groups tend to live in separate neighbourhoods) in which cohesion is threatened? Can 'diverse and integrated' areas actually build more cohesion? We posit that how segregated a community is may form a 'missing link', helping to explain when diversity may build or undermine cohesion.

This project draws on an interdisciplinary framework (geography, demography, and developmental fields); marshals longitudinal panel/cohort data linked to multiple censuses; applies advanced statistical methods; and measures multiple inter-ethnic, intra-community and wider cohesion outcomes and mechanisms. Through this it will conduct the most complete investigation to date into how both diversity and segregation across communities affects cohesion, among majority and minority young people and adults, contemporaneously and across their lives. This will include:

*Performing some of the first robust 'causal' tests of how changes in community diversity and segregation affect cohesion over time, including asking: what happens to residents' cohesion when the levels of diversity and segregation in their communities change around them? Does moving into/out of communities with different levels of diversity and segregation affect peoples' cohesion?

*Producing crucial insights into processes of residential selection in the diversity-segregation-cohesion relationship, including: do levels of diversity and segregation affect beliefs and decisions to move into/out of certain communities? How far are such decisions driven by inter-ethnic attitudes? Or, are they driven instead by processes such as life cycle or disadvantage?

*Exploring the role of communities in young people's cohesion, asking: does community diversity and segregation affect youth cohesion? What role do familial attitudes, schools environments, and civic activities, play in youth cohesion, and can these domains help understand the pathways through which communities impact young people? And, do the levels of diversity and segregation in the communities we grow up in exert enduring impacts on cohesion over people's lives?

*Investigating how diversity and segregation across communities affect both minority and majority groups. For example: do minority-group residents respond in the same way as majority-group residents when they are more or less segregated from one another? How does the size of, and level of segregation from, other ethnic minority groups affect minority residents' cohesion? In particular, what occurs when newly-arrived immigrant-groups increasingly live among more established minority groups?

Through partnering with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and building an advisory panel of experts and key youth and community stakeholders, this project will contribute to academic debates while engaging in high-impact knowledge exchange, generating a crucial evidence-base for practical policy solutions to directly feed into the government's developing integration strategy.

Planned Impact

Given the topical yet sensitive nature of debates into diversity and cohesion this project has the capacity to have substantial impact across non-academic beneficiaries. Through marshalling high-quality data and methodologies to establish stronger 'causal' insights it will produce robust evidence for beneficiaries to draw on. Via a range of activities (see 'pathways to impact') the project will draw (non-)governmental stakeholders from various backgrounds together, along with academics, providing unique opportunities to create dialogues between often isolated groups, and future avenues to collaborate for high-impact questions.

Government and public sector

A key beneficiary will be our non-academic partner: the team from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MCLG) who are leading the government's Integration Strategy. The project aims were co-designed with extensive input from the MHCLG to produce evidence to feed directly into their evolving strategy and recent green paper. Particular benefit will come from insights into obstacles/opportunities for inter-group mixing, across multiple adult/youth domains, given the strategy's view of this as a key lever for cohesion. These insights will also be of use to the Greater London Authority in the recent development of its own integration strategy, as well as other bodies involved in governmental integration e.g., the All Party Parliamentary Group on Integration to draw on in their recommendations. The findings should be of use to Local Authorities through insights on cohesion across local areas, the supporting role of schools in this, and the possibilities of more cost-conscious practical solutions, such as targeted civic involvement. The Local Authorities forming part of the government's integration strategy should particularly benefit given our aim to compile detailed profiles of the obstacles/opportunities for building cohesion in their areas, derived from our findings. The focus on young people's integration will be of direct relevance to the Integration & Vulnerability team at the Home Office, while the insights into the role of schools will be of interest to the Department for Education. Given parallel international debates, this project also has the ability to contribute to non-UK governments.

Third Sector

The project findings will also be of direct import for think tanks developing policy strategies for cohesion, such as IPPR (and IPPR North, given concerns of weaker integration in the region), as well as Policy Exchange, the Social integration Commission, and Runnymede. This body of evidence will prove particularly useful for youth organisations aiming to contribute (locally or nationally) to cohesion, both within and outside of the UK; for example, the National Citizen Service Trust and Uniformed Groups. These can benefit from the robust evidence into how civic engagement can help youth cohesion; especially in communities where relations are already strained. Similarly, the evidence on youth cohesion will benefit non-for-profit groups aiming to work with young people in fostering positive inter-group cohesion (e.g. Immigration Education Nottingham, The Challenge Network). These findings have wider, international salience, and their insights on the obstacles/opportunities for cohesion across communities can be drawn on to inform programmes of more international-based non-for-profits, such as 'More in Common'.

Public sphere

Given the salience, and potentially polarising effects, of debates across the media and public sphere into how diversity affects social cohesion, this project has the potential to produce detailed, evidence-based insights to inform these debates. Through the application of robust quantitative analysis of large scale, representative data sets, it will be able to engage directly with the myriad claims of how ethnic diversity affects societal cohesion, the drivers behind this, as well as how challenges can be overcome.

Publications

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┼Żelinsk├Ż T (2021) Increasing understanding of the aspirations and expectations of Roma students in British Journal of Sociology of Education

 
Description The project has, thus far, generated several key findings, in line with the original project themes:
1) The project demonstrates that ethnic diversity alone does not appear to be a key driver of Brexit support, despite much of the public/political narrative in the area. Instead, we demonstrate that it is patterns of segregation which determine when diversity drove Brexit support. Thus, how increasing ethnic diversity of society appears to trigger tensions is in more segregated forms. Where diverse communities are integrated relations actually appear to improve.
2) The project uniquely demonstrates that residential segregation is a significant negative driver of mental health among ethnic minority groups in the UK. Mental health policy in the UK acknowledges that ethnic minorities often suffer worse mental health than their majority group counterparts. This work demonstrates that community characteristics need to be considered in mental health policy; in particular, how patterns of residential segregation are a key determinant of minority group mental health.
3) We demonstrate that, as expected, the ethnic mix of a community is a strong predictor of patterns of interethnic harassment. However, we also demonstrate that, even controlling for this, how residentially segregated an area is a stronger and consistent predictor of greater harassment. This will help societies better identify potential drivers of harassment and areas where focus should be on minimising hate crime.
4) The project demonstrates the key role sites of youth engagement can play in building positive intergroup relations among young people. In particular, their efficacy for overcoming key obstacles to integration such as residential segregation.

The project has generated several other impacts related to the project themes of social capital/social cohesion and mental health, as relates to the Covid-19 pandemic:
1) The paper explores the potential impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on people's perceptions of cohesion in their local communities; particularly for vulnerable groups/communities, such as ethnic minorities or those living in highly deprived neighbourhoods. To this end, we examine both trends over time in overall levels of cohesion as well as patterns of positive and negative changes experienced by individuals using nationally representative data from Understanding Society Study. We test whether rates of positive-/negative-change in cohesion over the pandemic-period differed across socio-demographic groups and neighbourhood characteristics. These trends are then compared to patterns of positive-/negative-change over time experienced in earlier periods to test whether the pandemic was uniquely harmful. We show that the overall levels of social cohesion are lower in June 2020 compared to all of the examined pre-pandemic periods. The decline of perceived-cohesion is particularly high in the most deprived communities, among certain ethnic minority groups and among the lower-skilled. Our findings suggest that the pandemic put higher strain on social-resources among vulnerable groups and communities, who also experienced more negative changes in other areas of life.
2) The study examines the impact of coronavirus-related restrictions on mental health among American adults, and how this relationship varies as a function of time and two measures of vulnerability (preexisting physical symptoms and job insecurity). We draw on data from two waves of Corona Impact Survey, which were fielded in late April and early of May 2020. Multilevel models were used to analyze the hierarchically nested data.Experiencing coronavirus disease-2019 restrictions significantly raise mental distress. This association is stronger for individuals with preexisting health conditions and those who worry about job prospects. These findings hold with the inclusion of region-wave covariates (number of deaths, wave dummy and aggregate measure of restrictions). Finally, there is a cross-level interaction: the restriction-distress connection is more pronounced in the second wave of data. Our research indicates that people who are more physically and/or financially vulnerable suffer more from the imposed restrictions, i.e. 'social isolation'. The mental health impact of coronavirus pandemic is not constant but conditional on the level of vulnerability.
Exploitation Route The project provides clear insights into the importance of communities in intergroup relations, and where/when ethnic diversity and segregation provide opportunities and obstacles to engendering social integration. This can help policy and stakeholder groups better target resources into sites of potential social discord. It also provides unique insights into the positive role sites of youth engagement can play in improving intergroup relations; especially where young people have few opportunities of building positive relations. The quasi-experimental approach provides clear, robust evidence of the efficacy of investing in such programmes. The tangential work on the Covid-19 pandemic helps demonstrate shifting stocks of social capital, especially among vulnerable groups, and the need to support this resource given its critical role in buffering harm during the pandemic.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy

 
Description Our non-academic partner, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government have expressed interest in the role of segregation in hindering social cohesion. This has resulted in a recognition that residential segregation (and not simply diversity alone) may be the key driver of intergroup relations across communities. The project's work on the importance of youth engagement programmes like the National Citizen Service has featured in several non-profit and policy documents on tools available to build social integration. Our NCS insights have also provided key evidence for the NCS themselves on where and when their scheme is at its most effective, and how to maximise its outcomes for society.
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal

Policy & public services

 
Description Collaboration with Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government 
Organisation Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have aimed, and been able, to provide unique insights into the community-level drivers of intergroup relations (and social cohesion more broadly) to help the MHCLG develop their Integrated Communities policy for fostering social cohesion in the UK. In particular, we have highlighted hotspots of integration and conflict, especially at the intersection between increasingly diverse communities and growing residential segregation, which allow the MHCLG to identify where resources may be best spent for social integration.
Collaborator Contribution Providing us the opportunity to understand the evidence needs of government, the feasibility of interventions, and network connections to governmental stakeholders who might benefits from the project insights
Impact The collaboration is still ongoing
Start Year 2019
 
Description Collaboration with National Citizen Service 
Organisation National Citizen Service
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The collaboration has aimed to explore the role of the National Citizen Service in fostering social integration. In particular, whether youth engagement schemes, like NCS, are able to act as 'associational bridges', bringing youth together from segregated communities who normally have few opportunities for interacting.
Collaborator Contribution We re-analysed data collected by the NCS and provided novel insights into the role of NCS for fostering youth social integration; especially its particularly efficacious role in overcoming obstacles to social integration such as residential segregation.
Impact Laurence J. (2020) Cohesion through participation? Youth engagement, interethnic attitudes, and pathways of positive and negative intergroup contact among adolescents: a quasi-experimental field study, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 46:13, 2700-2722, DOI: 10.1080/1369183X.2019.1700787 Laurence, J. (2019) Youth Engagement, Positive Interethnic Contact, and 'Associational Bridges': A Quasi-Experimental Investigation of a UK National Youth Engagement Scheme. J Youth Adolescence 48, 1264-1280. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-019-01042-x
Start Year 2019
 
Description Academic/policy workshop: 'Segregation and its Discontents' Institute for Social Sciences, University of Tokyo 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The workshop stemmed from an invitation to discuss the project research findings to an international audience in Tokyo, Japan, and discuss findings with government officials into the integration processes occurring in the UK. The audience were engaged with the findings, leading to plans to replicate analyses in the Japanese context.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Academic/policy workshop: 'The spatial and longitudinal dynamics of immigrant-share, residential segregation and their interrelationships for attitudes towards immigrants and immigration' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The main aim of the workshop was to engage both academic groups and stakeholders with insights into the drivers of tensions between ethnic groups. The workshop sparked extensive questions into how intergroup relations can be boosted through community life.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Academic/policy workshop: 'Together and Apart: the Dynamics of Ethnic Diversity, Segregation and Social Cohesion among Young People and Adults' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The workshop was designed to reach academics primarily (but also local charitable organisations/stakeholders) with the ongoing findings of the study. Stakeholders in particular were eager to learn more about what might drive prejudice between groups across cities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description COVID-19: National media article on research 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Based on a press release of our article ('Coming Together or Coming Apart'), the research was picked up by the Observer newspaper, which wrote an article on the piece.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/nov/07/good-neighbours-no-uks-community-spirit-fell-in-summer...
 
Description LSE Policy Blog on Youth Engagement, Segregation and Intergroup Attitudes 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact The project generated a blog post aiming to disseminate the key findings on the role of youth engagement for intergroup relations among young people, using a unique quasi-experimental approach
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/youth-social-cohesion/
 
Description Webinar on social integration among young people 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Based on the project findings, I was invited to take part in a webinar convened by the Belong Network (a network of non-for-profit, charitable, academic, and cohesion stakeholders)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021