Friends hard to find in ethnically diverse enclaves

According to Lancee and Dronkers, the more ethnically diverse a neighbourhood is, the less trust exists among neighbours. “Policies aiming at promoting ethnically diverse neighbourhoods in order to promote ethnic integration at the societal level might have an unintended inverse affect of decreasing individual trust,” they concluded.

A plague of friendlessness is epidemic in many cities. A high proportion of city dwellers confirm making friends is a chronic, pervasive and uphill struggle.

But the resulting withdrawal and seclusion from mainstream life is at its worst in ethnically diverse neighbourhoods, accumulating evidence shows.

The situation in Vancouver is so serious that a mayor’s task force has been set up to discover why so many residents report they are socially isolated. Data confirms one-third of residents of Greater Vancouver report they have trouble making friends. More than one-quarter say they are lonely; most have little interaction with their neighbours and a majority are withdrawing from community life.

Vancouver’s problems with regard to fractured social interrelationships are shared with many other large cities, particularly those with substantial ethnic populations.

“Ethnic diversity in the neighbourhood negatively affects individual social trust, both for immigrants and native residents,” says Robert Putman at Harvard University.

According to a new study by Bram Lancee and Jaap Dronkers at the European University Institute, “Ethnic diversity tends to reduce solidarity and social capital: In ethnically diverse neighbourhoods, residents of all ethnicities tend to ‘hunker down.’ ”

Under such circumstances, the researchers reported, “Trust (even in one’s own ethnic group) is lower, altruism and community co-operation is more rare, friends fewer.”


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