Inclusive integration policy can reduce perception of diversity as a threat

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Increasing ethnic and racial diversity in Western societies often accompanies feelings of threat among the ethnic majorities of a country. New research from Tilburg University shows that an inclusive integration policy can reduce the perception of diversity as a threat. The research suggests that policies that give immigrants more equal rights are particularly effective in promoting social cohesion and reducing tensions in Western societies.

Social scientists from Tilburg University examined the effects of increasing diversity and the role of integration policy on the attitudes towards increasing immigration among nearly 500,000 European citizens from 30 different countries over a period of 10 years. The findings show that the extent to which people of an ethnic-racial majority feel threatened depends on whether policies normalize or problematize diversity. In the case of more inclusive policies towards immigrants, participants from an ethnic-racial majority reported feeling little to no threat in response to increasing diversity. "The results of this study show how state and national integration policies contribute to framing diversity as a threat," said researcher Judit Kende of Tilburg University.

Inclusive policies: little to no feelings of threat

The scientists investigated the impact of changes in diversity and policy over a period of ten years, including the years 2015 to 2017, when the number of immigrants arriving in European countries reached record numbers. The researchers found that policy changes towards a more inclusive integration policy, which gives immigrants equal rights, weakened potential threat reactions when immigration peaked and diversity in Europe sharply increased. "This means people had fewer negative attitudes toward ethnic-racial minority groups and less inclination to discriminate and support policies that limit minority rights," said Kende.

The research shows that a more inclusive integration policy can reduce the impact of political narratives that portray diversity as a threat. "This effect holds even when narratives explicitly suggest that the ethnic-racial majority may become a minority and when diversity abruptly increases due to geopolitical events," according to the researchers.

Kende: "Countries often restrict immigration out of political concern that immigration will provoke tensions and weaken social cohesion. Our results show that granting more equal rights to immigrants is the way to reduce tensions and forge social cohesion in ethnically and racially diverse societies."