What is it about?

The defended neighbourhoods thesis stipulates that when neighbourhoods undergo sudden or large demographic changes, natives are more likely to oppose immigrants. In particular, the intuition is that where there are few immigrants before the change, the arrival of numerous new immigrants has a large negative impact on attitudes. However, if there were many immigrants before the change, the arrival of additional immigrants does not affect attitudes overly. Using panel data from the Dutch LISS, we use four-digit postcodes as realistic neighbourhoods. Contrary to the defended neighbourhood thesis, a larger change in the proportion of immigrant residents between 2008 and 2014 is associated with more positive views on immigrants among natives. It is particularly a change in the proportion of visible non-Western immigrants that appears to be relevant for changes in attitudes.

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Why is it important?

The defended neighbourhoods thesis has been developed in the US with reference to Black-White dynamics. We have seen it applied to immigrants in Western Europe, but no empirical test.


It is not that common in the social sciences to have such clearly formulated theories of social change than the defended neighbourhood thesis. Part of a project to make use of panel data on attitudes to immigration, we set out to test it empirically. Finding results in line with contact theory is encouraging, but despite ostensibly sufficient variance in the variables, we are left wondering what happened before we started measuring attitudes in surveys.

Didier Ruedin
Universite de Neuchatel

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This page is a summary of: How attitudes towards immigrants are shaped by residential context: The role of ethnic diversity dynamics and immigrant visibility, Urban Studies, October 2017, SAGE Publications,
DOI: 10.1177/0042098017732692.
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