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What do we know about social interaction and spatial integration and what are the key emerging issues?

Published 27 October 2014 / By Nissa Finney

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Mixing of groups defined by migrant origin or ethnicity has long been seen as an indicator of integration, representing societal cohesion, equality of opportunity and lack of racism or discrimination. Mixing has traditionally been conceived in terms of neighbourhoods and residential integration; more recently mixing in workplaces, schools and social environments have been considered with recognition that inter-group relationships are not only forged in residential environments.

This briefing draws on work of the ESRC Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE) to make four points about spatial integration and social interaction:

• Inter-ethnic mixing is widespread and increasing.
• Diverse neighbourhoods can elicit strong sense of belonging.
• Socio-economic inequalities are a critical barrier to inter-ethnic mixing and social interaction.
• Future work should focus on understanding the causes and consequences of mixing, particularly barriers to mixing and what type of mixing matters.

Nissa Finney is Lecturer in Social Statistics and member of the Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research (CMIST) at the University of Manchester, and a member of the ESRC Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE).


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