Kraks Fond seminar den 3. maj fra kl. 12.00-13.00 “Contested Boundaries and Halo Effects: Where does Ethnic Diversity Diminish Social Cohesion?”, Professor Merlin Schaeffer, Köln Universitet & KU

Kraks Fond Seminar. Fæstningens Materielgård, Frederiksholms Kanal 30, Bygning D. Fra kl. 12.00-13.00. Alle er velkomne!


Concerns about neighborhood erosion and conflict in ethnically diverse settings occupy scholars, policy makers, and pundits alike. In this talk I present two recent co-authored studies that try to investigate refined socio-spatial patterns that may explain under which spatial conditions ethnic diversity diminishes social cohesion. Both studies employ a perspective to neighborhood effects that emphasizes the importance of the geographical embeddedness of neighborhoods in their wider surroundings.

The first study proposes the contested boundaries hypothesis, which claims that neighborhood conflict is more likely to occur at fuzzy boundaries defined as interstitial or transitional areas sandwiched between two homogeneous ethno-racial 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 the argument: complaints about neighbors making noise, drinking in public, or blocking the driveway are more frequent at fuzzy boundaries rather than crisp, polarized borders.

The second study investigates the halo effect hypothesis, according to which people are particularly xenophobic if they live in homogeneous neighborhoods that border on ethnically diverse ones (or are even encircled by them). This socio-spatial constellation synthesizes two prominent explanations of xenophobia: as the neighborhood itself offers little opportunity for positive intergroup contact, the neighboring ethnically diverse neighborhoods may instill feelings of competition and group threat, which eventually result in xenophobia. Yet, our analyses based on geo-coded ALLBUS [German General Social Survey] 2014 data neither provide support for the halo effect hypotheses among the general population nor among xenophobia-minded subpopulations. I conclude by discussing plausible reasons why the German study deviates from the US based study and other European research.