When it comes to inter-ethnic relations, contact between groups has long been recognized as a factor potentially reducing tensions. In this sense, ethnically diverse voluntary associations have been lauded as a means to foster positive attitudes towards other groups. In a recent paper Tom van der Meer has a close look at the role of ethnically diverse associations, and concludes that in this particular case, we’re looking at self-selection effects.
The paper concludes that voluntary associations do not live up to their socializing potential to reduce tensions between different ethnic groups. Self-selection in this case means that people who are more open towards other groups in society are more likely to be in ethnically mixed association.
While the paper is a step forward in many aspects, it really would have needed panel data to support the strong conclusions it makes. In the meantime, we’re left with a caution and encouraged to dig deeper.
van der Meer, Tom. 2016. ‘Neither Bridging nor Bonding: A Test of Socialization Effects by Ethnically Diverse Voluntary Associations on Participants’ Inter-Ethnic Tolerance, Inter-Ethnic Trust and Intra-Ethnic Belonging’. Social Science Research 55 (January): 63–74. doi:10.1016/j.ssresearch.2015.09.005.