142.9 Neighborhood mix and social attitudes: The intersections of class and ethnicity in a northern English city

Wednesday, August 1, 2012: 1:45 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Distributed Paper
Gill VALENTINE , Geography, Leeds University, Leeds, United Kingdom
Johan ANDERSSON , Geography, Leeds University, Leeds, United Kingdom
Aneta PIEKUT , Geography, Leeds University, Leeds, United Kingdom
To examine the role of social and ethnic mix in shaping attitudes towards difference, this paper presents findings from a survey conducted with 1,500 inhabitants of Leeds, a multicultural city in the north of England. Through the deployment of cluster analysis, the survey respondents were selected from 8 types of neighbourhoods (all with varying degrees of social and ethnic diversity) and asked about their everyday encounters and feelings towards social difference. To complement this quantitative data, and to explore some of the issues in further depth, 90 qualitative follow-up interviews were also conducted with survey participants. Although our findings suggest a clear correlation between living in ethnically diverse neighbourhoods and tolerance of ethnic difference, attitudes were also mediated by class and perceived competition for increasingly scarce resources. To illuminate the complex intersections of class and ethnicity in the contemporary city, we draw on both the “contact hypothesis”, which has tended to posit that proximity between different ethnic groups is a potential vehicle for improved intergroup relations, and “threat theories” which in contrast suggest that proximity can exacerbate tensions. Finally, we link these findings to the topical debates regarding the current remodelling of the British welfare state. Specifically, we discuss changes to housing policy and its potential implications for intergroup relations in years to come.