Diversity and Inter-Ethnic Marriage An Agent-Based Approach

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 8:45 AM
Room: Booth 54
Oral Presentation
Huw VASEY , University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom
Inter-ethnic marriage, both a cause and a consequence of immigrant integration, is generally used to imply that the social distance between groups is low and, by extension, that community cohesion is high. The decision to marry outside (or even within) one’s group is often regarded as stemming from individual preferences and opportunities for contact. However, many anthropologists and sociologists have noted that culture-specific norms of kinship and reciprocity have a profound effect on who may be seen as eligible partners (Ballard 2008; Gardner 2006), echoing segmented assimilation theory’s focus on the importance of community and family influences in shaping assimilation processes.

Using a descriptive agent-based modelling approach, we seek to investigate the processes of partner selection in diverse communities, focussing on individual preferences, opportunities for contact, and group norms to uncover how these may lead to differential rates of inter-ethnic marriage. Agent-based approaches provide an ability to study ‘global’ phenomena simultaneously with their causal ‘local’ processes (and vice-versa) in a dynamic setting. They allow us to investigate the development of population-level phenomena from a simulated ‘local’ social space of norms and values populated by acculturated agents familiar to sociologists, potentially providing insights into community cohesion and inter-ethnic marriage which would not be available from other sources. Whilst agent-based models of inter-ethnic marriage have been developed previously, they have overestimated rates of inter-ethnic marriage and largely ignored the group-level processes necessary for a global understanding of inter-ethnic marriage. Utilising research and evidence from quantitative and qualitative sources from across the social sciences, we thus seek to develop a complex model of emergent processes of differentiation and change in the marriage patterns and social cohesion of migrant communities.