White people become less racist just by moving to more diverse areas, study finds

 

Science Editor

People who live in ethnically diverse streets are less racially prejudiced than individuals living in highly segregated areas and their increased tolerance is due directly to the experience of a more integrated society, a study has found.

Even when white people have little interaction with other groups living in the same ethnically diverse community, they feel more tolerant towards them purely because they witness positive interactions between different racial groups, it discovered.

The researchers who carried out the work have called the effect “passive tolerance” where a positive effect can be seen simply by living within a diverse community, similar to the negative effect of passive smoking when non-smokers are affected by the presence of smokers.

The findings emerged from the analysis of seven previous studies on community relations carried out between 2002 and 2012 in England, Europe, the United States and South Africa, and specifically tried to rule out the idea that the results can be explained by tolerant people being more likely to live in mixed neighbourhoods.

To eliminate the possibility that more tolerant people tend to live in more ethnically diverse areas, which would introduce bias to the results, two of the seven studies were conducted over several years to see how peoples’ attitudes changed over time, the researchers said.

This showed that even the attitudes of the most prejudiced people who did not mix at all with ethnic minorities became more tolerant over time as a result of living in areas were others were mixing on a daily basis, the researchers found.

“We have shown that positive contact between people belonging to different ethnic groups leads to more tolerant societies overall,” said Professor Miles Hewstone of Oxford University who led the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

“Astonishingly, we don't just see reduced prejudice among people who have direct contact with ethnic minorities. It isn't even confined to those whose friends have contact with minorities. Simply living in a neighbourhood where other people are mixing with minorities is enough to reduce racial prejudice,” Professor Hewstone said.

“If two white people with identical views went to live in different postcodes for a year, the person in the neighbourhood with more mixing between ethnic groups would likely leave more tolerant. We would see this effect even if they never personally spoke to people from other ethnicities. The size of this ‘passive tolerance’ effect on people's prejudice is of the same order as the effect of passive smoking on lung cancer risk,” he said.

The research focused in surveys of more than 1,000 Germans from 50 districts across Germany each with different ethnic mixtures. They were asked questions such as whether they agree that there were too many foreigners, or whether foreigners are a burden on social security or are a threat to jobs.

“Our results clearly show that districts with the most mixing between ethnic groups lead to the highest reductions in racial prejudice. Although our recent longitudinal studies were conducted in Germany, there is no reason to believe that these effects would not be the same across the world. The cross-sectional studies conducted in England, the US, and South Africa certainly support this idea,” Professor Hewstone said.

One implication of the work is that government policies should be directed towards encouraging integration between communities either in schools, workplaces or neighbourhoods, he added.

“Governments should do more to encourage different groups to mix with each other, as we now know that this reduces prejudice not just in individuals but throughout entire neighbourhoods. Social interventions that aim to increase contact between groups will help to establish more tolerant social norms in society. In the long run, this should lead to more harmonious neighbourhoods,” he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific