Eric M. Uslaner
DIVERSITY, SEGREGATION, AND TRUST
Generalized trust is a value that leads to many positive outcomes for a society–greater tolerance of minorities, greater levels of volunteering and giving to charity, better functioning government, less corruption, more open markets, and greater economic growth. Generalized trust is faith in people you don’t know who are likely to be different from yourself. Yet, several people, most notably Robert Putnam, now argue that trust is lower when we are surrounded by people who are different from ourselves. This view is mistaken. Diversity is not the culprit in lower levels of trust. Instead, it is residential segregation–which isolates people from those who may be of a different background. Segregation is one of the key reasons why contact with people who are different from ourselves does not lead to greater trust: Such contact may not be so frequent and it is not likely to take place frequently and in an atmosphere of equality.
I follow Allport, Forbes, and Pettigrew and argue that “optimal contact:” matters. Optimal contact is having friends of different backgrounds and living in an integrated (and diverse) community. Using data from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Sweden, I show that having friends of different backgrounds and living in integrated communities leads to higher levels of trust. For the United States and the United Kingdom, the “optimal conditions” boost trust among all ethnic and racial groups. For Canada and Australia, the optimal conditions only increase trust among native whites and for Sweden only among “non-Swedes.” Canada and Australia have very restrictive immigration policies so that new citizens are likely to be higher trusting when they come to their host countries. Sweden’s immigrants come from poor, war-torn countries and they are less likely to be trusting. However, the Swedish welfare state and commitment to reducing inequality leads to greater trust among immigrants.
The strong effects of optimal conditions are limited, however, by the fact that residential choice itself depends upon both positive racial attitudes and higher levels of trust (from American and British data). So you cannot simply engineer higher levels of trust by changing housing policies.
Professor of Demography and Social Inequality, Institute of Sociology and Social Psychology, Faculty of Management, Economics, and Social Sciences, Universität zu Köln.
CONTESTED BOUNDARIES: EXPLAINING WHERE ETHNO-RACIAL DIVERSITY PROVOKES NEIGHBORHOOD CONFLICT
Concerns about neighborhood erosion and conflict in ethnically diverse settings occupy scholars, policy makers and pundits alike; but the empirical evidence is inconclusive. This article proposes the contested boundaries hypothesis as a refined contextual explanation focused on poorly-defined boundaries between ethnic and racial groups. We argue that neighborhood conflict is more likely to occur at fuzzy boundaries defined as interstitial or transitional areas sandwiched between two homogeneous communities. Edge detection algorithms from computer vision and image processing allow us to identify these boundaries. Data from 4.7 million time and geo-coded 311 service requests from New York City support our argument: complaints about neighbors making noise, drinking in public, or blocking the driveway are more frequent at fuzzy boundaries rather than crisp, polarized borders. By focusing on the broader socio-spatial structure, the contested boundaries hypothesis overcomes the “aspatial” treatment of neighborhoods as isolated areas in research on ethnic diversity.
Ferruccio Biolcati Rinaldi
When talking about religious change, a number of different processes can be taken into account: differentiation between Church and State, privatization of religion and decline of religiosity. Once this complexity is acknowledged, it becomes clear why ambitious comparative projects on religious change are extremely difficult to be carried out. In this presentation, I approach this comparative problem by reducing complexity and concentrating only one aspect of religiosity that is religious practice. I analyse its trend by looking at one specific indicators (church attendance) by means of survey data in Europe from the beginning of the Seventies to the present. The analyses are based on a pooled dataset of five repeated cross-sectional studies: Eurobarometer, European Social Survey (ESS), European Values Study (EVS), International Social Survey Programme (ISSP), World Values Survey (WVS).
These trend are analysed from two different perspectives. On the one hand, I adopt a clustering approach looking for countries sharing the same trend. As to Western Europe, over the past 30 years, patterns of church attendance clearly differ across three clusters of countries. In Ireland, Northern Ireland, and most of Southern European countries, church attendance exhibits a slow decline. In Central European countries together with Great Britain and Spain, the decline is much steeper. And finally the Scandinavian countries and Eastern Germany have been characterized by very low levels of church attendance since the 1970s.
On the other hand, I address a challenging question: beside the many differences that can be detected among countries, does a common pattern of religious change emerge? That is, is it possible to reduce the specific national trends to a unique pattern of decline of religious practice, where each country represent a tile of a larger picture? In this case, different speeds of religious change should not be seen as incommensurable differences between countries but could be explained by the position each country has reached in the secularization process.