Now Published: How attitudes towards immigrants are shaped by residential context

Sjoerdje van Heerden and I have just learned that our paper “How Attitudes towards Immigrants Are Shaped by Residential Context: The Role of Neighbourhood Dynamics, Immigrant Visibility, and Areal Attachment” is now available at Urban Studies. This is the first publication coming out of the SNIS project on attitudes to foreigners.

In the paper, we check whether we can find any evidence for the ‘defended neighbourhood’ thesis, using panel data from the Netherlands and fixed-effect models. It turns out, we find no evidence of such effects in the Netherlands in recent years. The analysis looks at how proportional changes in residential context are associated with changes in attitudes towards immigrants. Following the reasoning that the majority population need to perceive immigrants, we paid particular attention to immigrant visibility. What is more, the unit of analysis is the neighbourhood, as close as possible as people experience it. We have put a lot of thought in choosing the right level, and went with the four-digit postcodes in the Netherlands. From what we gather, this largely corresponds to the perception of neighbourhoods people have, and not an artificial unit that happens to be ‘available’ in the data.

Following the ‘defended neighbourhood’ hypothesis, we focus on proportional change, not absolute numbers as researchers typically do when using cross-sectional data. A larger change in the proportion of immigrant residents is associated with more positive views on immigrants among natives — not what a defended neighbourhood would look like. Indeed, it is particularly a change in the proportion of visible non-Western immigrants that is associated with changes in attitudes.

Heerden, Sjoerdje van, and Didier Ruedin. 2017. “How Attitudes towards Immigrants Are Shaped by Residential Context: The Role of Neighbourhood Dynamics, Immigrant Visibility, and Areal Attachment.” Urban Studies Online First.

Do Ethnically Diverse Associations Lead to Positive Attitudes?

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.