Social Indicators Research

, Volume 125, Issue 3, pp 853–883 | Cite as

Statistical and Perceived Diversity and Their Impacts on Neighborhood Social Cohesion in Germany, France and the Netherlands

  • Ruud Koopmans
  • Merlin SchaefferEmail author


The question whether ethnic diversity is associated with declining social cohesion has produced much controversy. We maintain that more attention must be paid to cognitive mechanisms to move the debate ahead. Using survey data from 938 localities in Germany, France, and the Netherlands, we explore a crucial individual-level mechanism: perceptions of diversity. We not only consider perceptions of the amount, but also of the qualitative nature of diversity. By asking about various qualitative aspects of diversity, we test the cognitive salience of three explanations that have been proposed in the literature for negative diversity effects: out-group biases, asymmetric preferences and coordination problems. We show that all three mechanisms matter. Perceptions both mediate statistical diversity effects, and have important explanatory power of their own. Moreover, we are able to address the question to what extend the relationship of perceived diversity and neighborhood social cohesion varies across policy contexts. Based on assumptions in the literature about positive impacts of inclusive and culturally pluralist immigrant integration policy approaches, we hypothesize that ethno-cultural diversity is less negatively related to neighborhood social cohesion in more inclusive policy contexts. Our results provide partial support for this hypothesis as perceived diversity has a significantly stronger negative impact on neighborhood cohesion in Germany.


Social cohesion Social capital Ethnic diversity Immigration Intergroup relations Community erosion 



This research is part of the project “Ethnic Diversity, Social Trust and Civic Engagement”, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. Both authors have contributed equally to this article and the order of names is strictly alphabetical. We thank Joscha Legewie, Susanne Veit and members of the Department “Migration Integration Transnationalization” for helpful comments and ideas.


  1. Alba, R. D., Rumbaut, R. G., & Marotz, K. (2005). A distorted nation: Perceptions of racial/ethnic group sizes and attitudes toward immigrants and other minorities. Social Forces, 84(2), 901–919.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alesina, A., Baqir, R., & Easterly, W. (1999). Public goods and ethnic divisions. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 114(4), 1243–1284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alesina, A., & La Ferrara, E. (2000). Participation in heterogeneous communities. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 115(3), 847–904.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Anderson, C. J., & Paskeviciute, A. (2006). How ethnic and linguistic heterogeneity influence the prospects for civil society: A comparative study of citizenship behavior. The Journal of Politics, 68(4), 783–802.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Angrist, J. D., & Pischke, J.-S. (2009). Mostly harmless econometrics: An empiricist’s companion. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Baldwin, K., & Huber, J. D. (2010). Economic versus cultural differences: Forms of ethnic diversity and public goods provision. American Political Science Review, 104(4), 644–662.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Blalock, H. M. (1967). Toward a theory of minority-group relations. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  8. Bode, K., Hanneke, J. M., van Knippenberg, D., & van Ginkel, W. P. (2008). Ethnic diversity and distributed information in group decision making: The importance of information elaboration. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 12(4), 307–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Carol, S., & Koopmans, R. (2013). Dynamics of contestation over Islamic religious rights in Western Europe. Ethnicities, 13(2), 165–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chan, J., To, H.-P., & Chan, E. (2006). Reconsidering social cohesion: Developing a definition and analytical framework for empirical research. Social Indicators Research, 75(2), 273–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Crepaz, M. (2006). ‘If you are my brother i may give you a dime!’ Public opinion on multiculturalism, trust, and the welfare state. In K. Banting & W. Kymlicka (Eds.), Multiculturalism and the welfare state. Recognition and redistribution in contemporary democracies (pp. 92–117). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Delhey, J., & Newton, K. (2005). Predicting cross-national levels of social trust: Global pattern or nordic exceptionalism? European Sociological Review, 21(4), 311–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Delhey, J., Newton, K., & Welzel, C. (2011). How general is trust in ‘most people’? Solving the radius of trust problem. American Sociological Review, 76(5), 786–807.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Desmet, K., Ortuño-Ortín, I., & Wacziarg, R. (2012). The political economy of linguistic cleavages. Journal of Development Economics, 97(2), 322–338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dinesen, P. T. (2011). Me and Jasmina down by the schoolyard: An analysis of the impact of ethnic diversity in school on the trust of schoolchildren. Social Science Research, 40(2), 572–585.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Eger, M. A. (2010). Even in Sweden: The effect of immigration on support for welfare state spending. European Sociological Review, 26(2), 203–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Enders, C. K. (2010). Applied missing data analysis. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  18. Friedrichs, J., & Triemer, S. (2008). Gespaltene Städte? Soziale und ethnische Segregation in deutschen Großstädten. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.Google Scholar
  19. Garofolo, J. (1981). The fear of crime—Causes and consequences. Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 72(2), 839–857.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gesthuizen, M., van der Meer, T., & Scheepers, P. (2008). Ethnic diversity and social capital in Europe: Tests of Putnam’s thesis in european countries. Scandinavian Political Studies, 32(2), 121–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Graham, J. W., Olchowski, A. E., & Gilreath, T. D. (2007). How many imputations are really needed? Some practical clarifications of multiple imputation theory. Prevention Science, 8(3), 206–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gundelach, B., & Traunmüller, R. (2013). Beyond generalized trust: Norms of reciprocity as an alternative form of social capital in an assimilationist integration regime. Political Studies,. doi: 10.1111/1467-9248.12064.Google Scholar
  23. Habyarimana, J., Humphreys, M., Posner, D. N., & Weinstein, J. M. (2007). Why does ethnic diversity undermine public goods provision? American Political Science Review, 101(4), 709–725.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Helbling, M., Reeskens, T., & Stolle, D. (2013). Bringing political parties back in. Cultural diversity, social cohesion and political mobilization. Political Studies,. doi: 10.1111/1467-9248.12087.Google Scholar
  25. Herda, D. (2010). How many immigrants? Public Opinion Quarterly, 74(4), 674–695.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hooghe, M. (2007). Social capital and diversity generalized trust, social cohesion and regimes of diversity. Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue Canadienne de Science Politique, 40(3), 709–732.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hooghe, M., & de Vroome, T. (2013). The perception of ethnic diversity and anti-immigrant sentiments: A multilevel analysis of local communities in Belgium. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 38(1), 38–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hopkins, D. J. (2010). Politicized places: Explaining where and when immigrants provoke local opposition. American Political Science Review, 104(1), 40–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hou, F., & Zheng, W. (2009). Racial diversity, minority concentration, and trust in Canadian urban neighborhoods. Social Science Research, 38(3), 693–716.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Jeffreys, M. (2008). How can ‘cheap talk’ yield coordination, given a conflict? Mind & Society, 7(1), 95–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kesler, C., & Bloemraad, I. (2010). Does immigration erode social capital? The conditional effects of immigration-generated diversity on trust, membership, and participation across 19 countries, 1981–2000. Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue Canadienne de Science Politique, 43(02), 319–347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kimenyi, M. S. (2006). Ethnicity, governance and the provision of public goods. Journal African Economics, 15(1), 62–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Koopmans, R., Michalowski, I., & Waibel, S. (2012). Citizenship rights for immigrants. National paths and cross-national convergence in Western Europe, 1980–2008. American Journal of Sociology, 117(4), 1202–1245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Koopmans, R., & Veit, S. (2014). Ethnic diversity, trust, and the mediating role of positive and negative interethnic contact: A priming experiment. Social Science Research, 47, 91–107.Google Scholar
  35. Koster, F. (2013). Sociality in diverse societies: A regional analysis across European countries. Social Indicators Research, 111(2), 579–601.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kouvo, A., & Lockmer, C. (2013). Imagine all the neighbours: Perceived neighbourhood ethnicity, interethnic friendship ties and perceived ethnic threat in four nordic countries. Urban Studies,. doi: 10.1177/0042098013484538.Google Scholar
  37. Lancee, B., & Dronkers, J. (2011). Ethnic, religious and economic diversity in dutch neighbourhoods: Explaining quality of contact with neighbours, trust in the neighbourhood and inter-ethnic trust. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 37(4), 597–618.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 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(1), 70–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Marschall, M. J., & Stolle, D. (2004). Race and the city: Neighbourhood context and the development of generalized trust. Political Behaviour, 26(2), 125–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mata, F., & Pendakur, R. (2014). Social capital, diversity and giving or receiving help among neighbours. Social Indicators Research, 118(1), 329–347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Page, S. E. (2008). The difference: How the power of diversity creates better groups, firms, schools, and societies. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Putnam, R. D. (2007). E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and community in the twenty-first century. Scandinavian Political Studies, 30(2), 137–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Ruttan, L. M. (2006). Sociocultural heterogeneity and the commons. Current Anthropology, 47(5), 843–853. doi: 10.1086/507185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sampson, R. J., Morenoff, J. D., & Earls, F. (1999). Beyond social capital: Spatial dynamics of collective efficacy for children. American Sociological Review, 64(5), 633–660.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Schaeffer, M. (2013). Can competing diversity indices inform us about why ethnic diversity erodes social cohesion? A test of five diversity indices in Germany. Social Science Research, 42(3), 755–774.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Schaeffer, M. (2014). Ethnic diversity and social cohesion: Immigration, ethnic fractionalization and potentials for civic action. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  47. Schaeffer, M., Koopmans, R., Veit, S., Wagner, M., & Wiedner, J. (2011). The Ethnic Diversirty and Collective Action Survey (EDCAS). WZB Discussion Paper Series, No. SP IV 2011-701.Google Scholar
  48. Schlueter, E., & Davidov, E. (2011). Contextual sources of perceived group threat: Negative immigration-related news reports, immigrant group size and their interaction, Spain 1996–2007. European Sociological Review, 29(2), 179–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Schlueter, E., & Scheepers, P. (2010). The relationship between outgroup size and anti-outgroup attitudes: A theoretical synthesis and empirical test of group threat-and intergroup contact theory. Social Science Research, 39(2), 285–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Semyonov, M., Raijman, R., & Gorodzeisky, A. (2008). Foreigners’ impact on European societies: Public views and perceptions in a cross-national comparative perspective. International Journal of Comparative Sociology, 49(1), 5–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sigelman, L., & Niemi, R. G. (2001). Innumeracy about minority populations: African Americans and Whites compared. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 65(1), 86–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Stichnoth, H. (2012). Does immigration weaken natives’ support for the unemployed? Evidence from Germany. Public Choice, 151(3), 631–654.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Stolle, D., Soroka, S., & Johnston, R. (2008). When does diversity erode trust? neighborhood diversity, interpersonal trust and the mediating effect of social interactions. Political Studies, 56(1), 57–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Swidler, A. (1986). Culture in action—Symbols and strategies. American Sociological Review, 51(2), 273–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Tajfel, H. (1978). Social categorization, social identity and social comparison. In H. Tajfel (Ed.), Differentiation between social groups (pp. 61–76). London: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  56. Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1986). The social identity theory of intergroup behavior. In S. Worchel & W. G. Austin (Eds.), Psychology of intergroup relations (pp. 7–24). Chicago: Nelson-Hall.Google Scholar
  57. Tolsma, J., van der Meer, T., & Gesthuizen, M. (2009). The impact of neighbourhood and municipality characteristics on social cohesion in the Netherlands. Acta Politica, 44(3), 286–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Van der Meer, T., & Tolsma, J. (2014). Ethnic diversity and its supposed detrimental effects on social cohesion. Annual Review of Sociology,. doi: 10.1146/annurev-soc-071913-043309.Google Scholar
  59. Vanparys, N., Jacobs, D., & Torrekens, C. (2013). The impact of dramatic events on public debate concerning accommodation of Islam in Europe. Ethnicities, 13(2), 209–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wong, C. J. (2007). ‘Little’ and ‘big’ pictures in our heads: Race, local context, and innumeracy about racial groups in the United States. Public Opininion Quarterly, 71(3), 392–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wooldridge, J. M. (2003). Cluster-sample methods in applied econometrics. The American Economic Review, 93(2), 133–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Xu, Y., Fiedler, M. L., & Flaming, K. H. (2005). Discovering the impact of community policing: The broken windows thesis, collective efficacy, and citizens’ judgment. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 42(2), 147–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Zhang, Z., Zyphur, M. J., & Preacher, K. J. (2009). Testing multilevel mediation using hierarchical linear models. Organizational Research Methods, 12(4), 695–719.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.WZB – Berlin Social Science CenterBerlinGermany

Personalised recommendations