Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Diversity and Trust in Hong Kong: An Examination of Tin Shui Wai, Hong Kong’s ‘City of Sadness’


The present study examines factors associated with social cohesion, looking specifically at the relationship between community diversity and generalised trust in Tin Shui Wai, a remote low-income town in Hong Kong, known locally as the ‘City of Sadness’. The study uses a mixed-methods approach in the form of a household survey and focus group interviews. A total of 100 respondents completed the household survey, 42 individuals participated in focus group interviews. Findings revealed that community diversity was negatively associated with trust among respondents. High levels of distrust were evident from qualitative discussions. Group and community participation were both predictive of trust among respondents, as were perceptions of community harmony and safety. Further research territory-wide across Hong Kong using a longitudinal approach is suggested to provide a deeper understanding of the impact of diversity on levels of trust, and changes across time of the developments between trust and diversity in Hong Kong.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Abele, A. E., Cuddy, A. J. C., Judd, C. M., & Yzerbyt, V. Y. (2008). Fundamental dimensions of social judgement. European Journal of Social Psychology, 38, 1063–1065. doi:10.1002/ejsp.574.

  2. Abele, A. E., & Wojciszke, B. (2007). Agency and communion from the perspective of self versus others. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93, 751–763. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.93.5.751.

  3. Bakan, D. (1966). The duality of human existence. Reading, PA: Addison-Wesley.

  4. Banting, K., Johnston, R., & Soroka, S. (2006). Immigration and redistribution in the global era. In M. Wallerstein, P. Bardhan, & S. Bowles (Eds.), Globalization and social redistribution (pp. 261–288). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

  5. BBC News. (2012). Is Hong Kong really the world’s freest economy? Retrieved from

  6. Bjørnskov, C. (2006). Determinants of generalized trust: A cross-country comparison. Public Choice, 130, 1–21. doi:10.1007/s11127-006-9069-1.

  7. Brambilla, M., Rusconi, P., Sacchi, S., & Cherubini, P. (2011). Looking for honesty: The primary role of morality (vs. sociability and competence) in information gathering. European Journal of Social Psychology, 41, 135–143. doi:10.1002/ejsp.744.

  8. Brown, R. (2000). Social identity theory: Past achievements, current problems, and future challenges. European Journal of Social Psychology, 30, 745–778. doi:10.1002/1099-0992(200011/12)30:6<745:AID-EJSP24>3.0.CO;2-O.

  9. Campbell, A., Hughes, J., Hewstone, M., & Cairns, E. (2010). Social capital as a mechanism for building a sustainable society in Northern Ireland. Community Development Journal, 45, 22–38. doi:10.1093/cdj/bsn033.

  10. Census & Statistics Department. (2013). 2011 Population Census. Hong Kong: Hong Kong SAR Government. Retrieved from

  11. Central Intelligence Agency. (2013). The World Factbook. Country comparison: GDP-per capita (PPP). Retrieved from

  12. Chan, J., & Chan, E. (2006). Charting the state of social cohesion in Hong Kong. The China Quarterly, 187, 635–658. doi:10.1017/S0305741006000415.

  13. Chan, J., To, H. P., & Chan, E. (2006). Reconsidering social cohesion: Developing a definition and analytical framework for empirical research. Social Indicators Research, 75, 273–302.

  14. Cheong, P. H., Edwards, R., Goulborne, H., & Solomos, J. (2007). Immigration, social cohesion and social capital: A critical review. Critical Social Policy, 27, 24–49. doi:10.1177/0261018307072206.

  15. Coleman, J. S. (1988). Social capital in the creation of human capital. The American Journal of Sociology, 94, S95–S120. doi:10.1086/228943.

  16. Cooper, C. R., & Denner, J. (1998). Theories linking culture and psychology: Universal and community-specific processes. Annual Review of Psychology, 49, 559–584.

  17. Fukuyama, F. (1995). Trust: Social virtues and the creation of prosperity. NY: Free Press.

  18. Fukuyama, F. (2001). Social capital, civil society, and development. Third World Quarterly, 22, 7–20. doi:10.1080/713701144.

  19. Groot, W., van den Brink, H. M., & van Praag, B. (2007). The compensating income variation of social capital. Social Indicators Research, 82, 189–207. doi:10.1007/s11205-006-9035-9.

  20. Ho, W. C., Rochelle, T. L., & Yuen, M. (2011). “We Are Not Sad At All”: Adolescents Talk about their ‘City of Sadness. Journal of Adolescent Research, 26, 727–765. doi:10.1177/0743558410391255.

  21. Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups. (2002). A study on social capital with regard to social networks, trust and reciprocity. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups (in Chinese).

  22. Hooghe, M., Reeskens, T., Stolle, D., & Trappers, A. (2009). Ethnic diversity and generalised trust in Europe: A cross-national multilevel study. Comparative Political Studies, 42, 198–223. doi:10.1177/0010414008325286.

  23. Kawachi, I., & Berkman, L. (2000). Social cohesion, social capital and health. In I. Kawachi & L. Berkman (Eds.), Social epidemiology (pp. 174–190). Milton Keynes: Open University Press.

  24. Kawachi, I., Kim, D., Coutts, A., & Subramanian, S. V. (2004). Commentary: Reconciling the three accounts of social capital. International Journal of Epidemiology, 33, 682–690. doi:10.1093/ije/dyh177.

  25. Kvale, S. (1996). Interviews: An introduction to qualitative research interviewing. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

  26. Kvale, S. (2006). Dominance through interviews and dialogues. Qualitative Inquiry, 12, 480–500. doi:10.1177/1077800406286235.

  27. Laurence, J. (2011). The effect of ethnic diversity and community disadvantage on social cohesion: A multi-level analysis of social capital and interethnic relations in UK communities. European Sociological Review, 27, 70–89. doi:10.1093/esr/jcp057.

  28. Law, C. K., Wong, Y. C., Chui, E., Lee, K. M., Pong, Y. Y., Yu, R. et al. (2009). A study on Tin Shui Wai New Town. Hong Kong: University of Hong Kong. Retrieved from

  29. Legislative Council. (2010). Paper for panel on welfare services: Report of the subcommittee for poverty alleviation. Hong Kong: Hong Kong SAR Government. Retrieved from

  30. McClelland, K., & Linnander, E. (2006). The role of contact and information in racial attitude change among white college students. Sociological Inquiry, 76, 81–115. doi:10.1111/j.1475-682X.2006.00145.x.

  31. Messick, D., & Kramer, R. (2001). Trust as a form of shallow morality. In K. Cook (Ed.), Trust in society (pp. 89–117). New York: Russell Sage.

  32. Morgan, A., & Haglund, B. J. A. (2009). Social capital does matter for adolescent health: Evidence from the English HSBC study. Health Promotion International, 24, 363–372. doi:10.1093/heapro/dap028.

  33. Mulvaney-Day, N. E., Alegria, M., & Sribney, W. (2007). Social cohesion, social support, and health outcomes among Latinos in the United States. Social Science and Medicine, 64, 477–495. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2006.08.030.

  34. Putnam, R. (1995). Tuning in, tuning out: The strange disappearance of social capital in America. Political Science and Politics, 28, 664–683. doi:10.2307/420517.

  35. Putnam, R. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon & Schuster.

  36. Putnam, R. (2007). E pluribus unum: Diversity and community in the twenty-first century. Scandinavian Political Studies, 30, 137–174. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9477.2007.00176.x.

  37. Reidpath, D. D. (2003). “Love thy neighbour”—it’s good for your health: A study of racial homogeneity, mortality and social cohesion in the United States. Social Science and Medicine, 57, 253–261. doi:10.1016/S0277-9536(02)00344-1.

  38. Shek, D. T. (1992). Meaning in life and psychological well-being: An empirical study using the Chinese version of the Purpose in Life questionnaire. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 153, 185–200.

  39. Sides, J., & Citrin, J. (2007). European opinion about immigration: The role of identities interests and information. British Journal of Political Science, 37, 477–504. doi:10.1017/S0007123407000257.

  40. Soroka, S., Johnston, R., & Banting, K. (2006). Immigration and redistribution in a global era. In S. Bowles, P. Bardham, & M. Wallerton (Eds.), Globalisation and egalitarian redistribution (pp. 261–288). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

  41. Stolle, D. (1998). Bowling together, bowling alone: The development of generalized trust in voluntary associations. Political Psychology, 19, 497–525. doi:10.1111/0162-895X.00115.

  42. Stolle, D., Soroka, S., & Johnston, R. (2008). When does diversity erode trust? Neighbourhood diversity, interpersonal trust and the mediating effect of social interactions. Political Studies, 56, 57–75. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9248.2007.00717x.

  43. Sturgis, P., Brunton-Smith, I., Read, S., & Allum, N. (2011). Does ethnic diversity erode trust? Putnam’s ‘hunkering down’ thesis reconsidered. British Journal of Political Science, 41, 57–82. doi:10.1017/S0007123410000281.

  44. Triandis, H. (1996). The psychological measurement of cultural syndromes. American Psychologist, 51, 407–415.

  45. Triandis, H., Chan, D. K. S., Bhawuk, D. P. S., Iwao, K., & Sinha, J. B. P. (1995). Multimethod probes of allocentrism and idiocentrism. International Journal of Psychology, 30, 461–480.

  46. Tsang, S., & Chu, Y. K. (2010). Social cohesive efforts to meet youth development needs in Tin Shui Wai, Hong Kong. In K. H. Mok & Y. W. Ku (Eds.), Social cohesion in greater China: Challenges for social policy and governance (pp. 43–68). Singapore: World Scientific.

  47. Uchronski, M. (2008). Agency and communion in spontaneous self-descriptions: Occurrence and situational malleability. European Journal of Social Psychology, 38, 1093–1102. doi:10.1002/ejsp.563.

  48. UN-Habitat. (2012). State of the World’s Cities 2010/2011: The economic divide: Urban income inequalities. Retrieved from

  49. Wagner, U., Christ, O., Pettigrew, T. F., Stellmacher, J., & Wolf, C. (2006). Prejudice and minority proportion: Contact instead of threat effects. Social Psychology Quarterly, 69, 380–390. doi:10.1177/019027250606900406.

  50. Wen, M., Fan, J., Jin, L., & Wang, G. (2010). Neighbourhood effects on health among migrants and natives in Shanghai, China. Health & Place, 16, 452–460. doi:10.1016/j.healthplace.2009.12.001.

  51. Wong, H. (2011). Quality of life of poor people living in remote areas in Hong Kong. Social Indicators Research, 100, 435–450. doi:10.1007/s11205-010-9622-7.

  52. Ybarra, O., Chan, E., & Park, D. (2001). Young and old adults’ concerns about morality and competence. Motivation and Emotion, 25, 85–100. doi:10.1023/A.1010633908298.

  53. Ybarra, O., Chan, E., Park, H., Burnstein, E., Monin, B., & Stanik, C. (2008). Life’s recurring challenges and the fundamental dimensions: An integration and its implications for cultural differences and similarities. European Journal of Social Psychology, 38, 1083–1092. doi:10.1002/ejsp.559.

Download references


The work described in this paper was fully supported by City University of Hong Kong Strategic Research Grant (Project No: 7002398).

Author information

Correspondence to Tina L. Rochelle.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Rochelle, T.L. Diversity and Trust in Hong Kong: An Examination of Tin Shui Wai, Hong Kong’s ‘City of Sadness’. Soc Indic Res 120, 437–454 (2015).

Download citation


  • Community diversity
  • Trust
  • Social cohesion
  • Social capital
  • Hong Kong