'White flight' or positive contact?: Local diversity and attitudes to immigration in Britain, 2009-11

Publication type

Research Paper


Eric Kaufmann and Gareth Harris

Publication date


Does the local presence of immigrant groups increase white hostility to immigration? Most research in the United States and Europe finds that diverse neighbourhoods reduce white opposition to minorities and immigration. However, most studies at higher geographies such as county or metro area find the reverse effect. We confirm this pattern for England and Wales for 2009-11. Yet contextual studies are plagued by selection bias, which is where this paper makes its main contribution. Is white tolerance in diverse neighbourhoods the result of a positive effect of interethnic contact, or does it arise from the 'hydraulic' pressure of ethnic diversity on anti-immigrant whites, who exit diverse areas but remain within wider geographies as radicalized opponents of immigration? The growing literature on local-contextual effects on public opinion remains vulnerable to the charge of self-selection. We provide the first attempt we are aware of to track the opinions of in- and out-migrants, as well as stayers, from local areas over an extended period. We do so by utilizing twenty years of large scale geocoded British longitudinal data over 1991-2011 to account for the selection effects associated with 'white flight'. This work therefore has important implications for previous and future work on contextual effects. We find evidence that largely refutes self-selection. However, an important reason diverse contexts are associated with tolerant attitudes is that whites in them are more transient.


Area Effects, Migration, Ethnic Groups, Social Attitudes and Race Relations


Not held in Research Library - bibliographic reference only

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