Community cohesion has become an important policy issue in recent years following the race-related disturbances in Oldham, Burnley and Bradford in 2001. This report from Communities and Local Government sets out finding of research into predictors of community cohesion.The report examines the issue at both the individual and the community level.
The principal findings were that ethnic diversity drives cohesion. Living in an area which has a broad mix of residents from different ethnic groups was consistently shown to be a positive predictor of cohesion. Having friends from ethnic groups other than one’s own is also a strong positive predictor of cohesion. However, having an increasing percentage of in-migrants born outside of the UK, is a negative predictor.
Disadvantage consistently undermines perceptions of cohesion and operates in a similar fashion for all communities, irrespective of the level of ethnic diversity in a community. However, not all deprived areas have low cohesion. Deprived, diverse areas have higher average cohesion scores than deprived, homogeneous White areas. It is deprivation that undermines cohesion, not diversity.
Increasing levels of crime and fear of crime are both strong negative predictors of community cohesion. Feeling unsafe after dark, fear of crime and fear of being a victim of a racist attack have a particularly negative effect on perceptions of cohesion amongst those living in areas where the population is predominately made up of White, Pakistani and Bangladeshi people. Crime also undermines the positive effect of living in a very diverse areas.
Empowerment, feeling able to influence local decisions, is a strong positive predictor of community cohesion. Feeling that an individual would be unfairly treated because of their race, especially by local housing authorities, coupled with a feeling of racial prejudice has a strong negative impact on cohesion.
Volunteering is a positive predictor of cohesion and individuals who engage in formal volunteering are more positive about cohesion.
The report is available from DCLG. http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/communities/pdf/681539