European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) edition:5 location:Potsdam date:10-14 September 2009
During the last decades, the region of Flanders (Belgium) has become increasingly ethnically and culturally diverse. In this paper, we investigate whether social cohesion is eroded as a result of this increasing diversity. In the recent literature, a negative effect of diversity on social capital - networks, norms of generalized trust and reciprocity - has been documented mainly in the US and Great Britain. However, it is not clear whether these findings can be generalized to other countries. We investigate whether local diversity, operationalized by five different indicators on diversity, has an effect on generalized trust and participation in associations. Using multilevel models, the results show that, controlling for theoretically relevant covariates, the relation between diversity an social capital is very weak and mostly non-significant. Only regarding the share of non-EU-residents in the population, a curvilinear relation with generalized trust can be detected. Consequently, the pessimistic hypothesis that diversity undermines community life cannot be supported based on these findings.