Trust and Cohesion
In an earlier post on the Islamdebate I wrote that several forms of criticism towards Islam seem to have become mainstream now instead of being used only by extremists. Although in the upcoming Dutch elections integration is not a real issue, the feeling that Islam is not compatible with democracy or European values is still prevalent among many non-Muslims. One of things that plays a role is that many people think that if Muslims become a powerful force in society (in many do believe they already are), they will be intolerant. In other words, these people do not trust Muslims in general.
Using a large Australian social survey, combined with precise data on neighbourhood characteristics, I explore the factors that a ffect trust at a local level (â€˜localised trustâ€™) and at a national level (â€˜generalised trustâ€™). Trust is positively associated with the respondentâ€™s education, and negatively associated with the amount of time spent commuting.
At a neighbourhood level, trust is higher in affluent areas, and lower in ethnically and linguistically heterogeneous communities, with the effect being stronger for linguistic heterogeneity than ethnic heterogeneity. Linguistic heterogeneity reduces localised trust for both natives and immigrants, and reduces generalised trust only for immigrants.
Instrumental variables specifications show similar results. In contrast to the USA, there is no apparent relationship between trust and inequality across neighbourhoods in Australia.
In his conclusion Leigh writes:
Given that Australia and the USA are both â€˜settler societiesâ€™ that experienced high levels of immigration in the postwar era (Freeman & Jupp, 1992), it is perhaps not surprising that there is a negative relationship between ethno-linguistic heterogeneity and trust in both countries. Yet given the substantial benefits of immigration, reducing ethnic heterogeneity
would most likely have a net detrimental effect. Instead, policymakers should focus attention on the problem itself â€“ building local-level trust in diverse communities. To the extent that the marginal returns from community-building programs are higher in neighbourhoods with lower levels of trust, these programs should be targeted towards
communities that are less affluent and more linguistically diverse.
This sort of proves how important language is to build up a cohesive community, something that has been done in several ways in the Netherlands for a long time (but not very succesful for example in the case of giving Moroccans Arab lessons while most of them are Berber and use one of the Berber languages.). Another thing is of course that it shows how important the issue of trust is; something that has been given almost no attention at all.