Handbooks of Research Methods and Applications series
Edited by Yaojun Li
Chapter 7: Diversity and social capital in the US and UK: the role of bridging friendships
Growing austerity across Europe, widening socioeconomic inequalities in North America, and changes in the scale and origin of immigration have led to a renewed interest, among governments and citizens alike, in the consequences of racial and ethnic diversity for community and social cohesion. Numerous scholars have shown how diverse neighbourhood contexts are sometimes accompanied by lower levels of social capital: civic engagement, interpersonal trust, social connectedness and reciprocity (Alesina and La Ferrara, 2000; Clark et al., 2010; Costa and Kahn, 2003; Delhey and Newton, 2005; Fieldhouse and Cutts, 2010; Hero, 2003; Putnam, 2007). However, socio-psychological scholarly evidence on the contact hypothesis suggests that bridging contacts with diverse others can induce greater empathy with the out-group and reduce interactional anxiety (Brown and Hewstone, 2005; Hewstone et al., 2006; Islam and Hewstone, 1993; Pettigrew et al., 2007) as well as build higher levels of social capital that can transcend existing group boundaries (Stolle et al., 2008; Wagner et al., 2006). This chapter sets out to investigate the effect of contact between in/out-groups on the relationship between diversity and social capital in England and the US. It hypothesizes a mediating role for contact, whereby diversity can have a positive indirect effect on social capital via inter-group contact. Unlike most other studies, we disaggregate the mediation effects of contact on diversity on Whites (majority status) and ethnic minorities (minority status). And then we operationalize this relationship using a mediation analysis within a structural equation modelling framework.
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