Immigration, diversity and trust: the competing and intersecting role of English language ability in the community

January 21, 2022

Ethnic and Racial Studies, Vol. 45, No. 16

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A growing number of studies have shown adverse effects of ethnic diversity on social cohesion routed in ethnic categorical differences, competition and racial threat. We build on previous research by examining the hypothesis that cultural (language) differentiation leads to lower intra-neighbourhood trust through feelings of anomie. Our results, based on data from the 2009–2011 UK Citizenship survey and a multilevel modelling framework, do not offer support for the proposition that diversity lowers trust through linguistic diversity and poor communication. In line with other studies, we find a negative association between ethnic diversity and trust and show that for the white group, this relationship does not depend on migrants’ levels of fluency in the majority language. In contrast, in neighbourhoods where migrants cannot speak English well, increases in ethnic diversity are associated with higher levels of neighbour trust among the non-white group.