Making Diversity Work: New Behavioral Indicators of Social Cohesion in Multiethnic Communities

Research question/goal: 

Recent trends in global migration have raised public concerns about the potentially negative consequences of ethnic diversity for social solidarity in Western societies. Few studies to date however have sought to explain how trust and cooperation can conversely be sustained in diverse settings. Against this backdrop, the proposed research aims to create novel behavioral indicators of social cohesion across multiethnic German neighborhoods in order to analyze the emergence of positive community relations. In contrast to existing studies which predominately privilege comparisons between ethnically-homogenous and heterogeneous areas, a key contribution of the proposed research is to focus explicitly on important unexamined differences between highly-diverse contexts in order to understand the conditions under which diversity may undermine or, conversely, promote cooperation.

Using innovative field experimental methods, this research will develop a sophisticated set of behavioral indicators to map variation in "prosocial" behavior across diverse urban areas. Further, this new data will be used to (i) systematically test novel theories about how different features of diverse neighborhoods contribute to local cooperation, (ii) disentangle the individual-level mechanisms – other-regarding preferences, social norms enforcement, and intergroup contact – underlying social cohesion in multiethnic settings, and (iii) develop a richer understanding of social relations that takes both natives’ and minorities’ experiences into account. Overall, results from this research will open up new scientific perspectives on cooperation in diverse communities and generate critical policy knowledge about how to "make diversity work" in an era of rapid demographic change.

Current stage: 

This project is proceeding along several fronts. In particular, we are mapping and analysing administrative data on urban neighbourhoods in preparation for selecting field sites for our field experiments to be carried out in 2022. This neighbourhood data will also be eventually merged to geolocated-SOEP data at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin), where additional analyses will be conducted in order to provide an "attitudinal" complement to the field experimental results. We have therefore also already begun to develop our procedures for cleaning and analysing the SOEP data in anticipation of our visit to the DIW.

Fact sheet

Emmy Noether Junior Research Group (DFG)
2021 to 2027
Data Sources: 
Field Experiments
Geographic Space: