Hanno Kruse
The SES-Specific Neighbourhood Effect on Interethnic Friendship Formation. The Case of Adolescent Immigrants in Germany

European Sociological Review, 2017: 33, issue 2, pp. 182-194
ISSN: 0266-7215 (print); 1468-2672 (online)

Neighbourhoods with high ethnic concentrations are argued to steer immigrants into lives separate from the native population. Taking adolescent immigrants in Germany as an example, this article argues and shows why the link between the ethnic composition of immigrants’ neighbourhoods and their friendships depends on immigrants’ socio-economic status (i.e. SES-specific neighbourhood effects on interethnic friendships); why high-SES immigrants living around more natives have more native friends, whereas for low-SES immigrants, this association is weaker. Introducing a formal account of interethnic friendship formation, the article proposes four potential explanations, three being empirically corroborated. First, SES differences are partly an artefact because of model misspecification. Second, low-SES immigrants attend more concentrated meeting contexts (i.e. schools) than high-SES immigrants, yielding different opportunities for native friends even when neighbourhood compositions are identical. Third, SES-specific friendship preferences may also be responsible. There is no indication that SES groups differ in how much they rely on their neighbourhoods when making friends. Additional analyses conducted on adolescent immigrants in the Netherlands confirm these patterns. All presented analyses make use of ego-network data from the first wave of the CILS4EU data, accompanied by small-scale neighbourhood information from an external data source.