SNIS Project Publication

How attitudes towards immigrants are shaped by residential context: The role of ethnic diversity dynamics and immigrant visibility

Sjoerdje van Heerden – Didier Ruedin

How Attitudes towards Immigrants Are Shaped by Residential Context: The Role of Neighbourhood Dynamics, Immigrant Visibility and Areal Attachment: The Role of Neighbourhood Dynamics, Immigrant Visibility, and Areal Attachment

Sjoerdje van Heerden – Didier Ruedin

Urban Studies – 25 October 2017


In the paper, we check whether we can find any evidence for the ‘defended neighbourhood’ thesis, using panel data from the Netherlands and fixed-effect models. It turns out, we find no evidence of such effects in the Netherlands in recent years. The analysis looks at how proportional changes in residential context are associated with changes in attitudes towards immigrants. Following the reasoning that the majority population need to perceive immigrants, we paid particular attention to immigrant visibility. What is more, the unit of analysis is the neighbourhood, as close as possible as people experience it. We have put a lot of thought in choosing the right level, and went with the four-digit postcodes in the Netherlands. From what we gather, this largely corresponds to the perception of neighbourhoods people have, and not an artificial unit that happens to be ‘available’ in the data.

Following the ‘defended neighbourhood’ hypothesis, we focus on proportional change, not absolute numbers as researchers typically do when using cross-sectional data. A larger change in the proportion of immigrant residents is associated with more positive views on immigrants among natives — not what a defended neighbourhood would look like. Indeed, it is particularly a change in the proportion of visible non-Western immigrants that is associated with changes in attitudes.