Are They Hunkering Down? Revisiting the Relationship between Exposure to Ethnic Diversity, Intergroup Contact, and Group Trust
Past research suggests that the migration-induced diversification of everyday living spaces creates uncertainty about shared norms and rules of engagement, leading individuals to “hunker down” and become distrustful. Theory distinguishes between mere exposure and actual contact effects. For mere exposure, the assumption is that ethnic diversity matters even in the absence of one-on-one interactions, as observing the unknown from afar will serve to activate negative prejudice which lowers trust. But diverse environments may also provide opportunities for positive contact, leading individuals to revise their distrust. Improving upon existing studies, we investigate simultaneously the association between group trust and diversity via static and cumulative mere exposure in the neighborhood setting and actual intergroup contact at the workplace, relying on administrative register data rather than self-reporting for our main predictors. We find that trust in neighbors is significantly negatively associated with cumulative exposure to ethnic diversity, while the widely-used measure of current exposure shows no effect. Workplace contact neither has a statistically significant association with trust in neighbors, nor does it mediate the negative association between neighborhood exposure and trust. We thus find some support for the hunkering down hypothesis, but also find that it takes much more precise measures of expo-sure than studies commonly use to reliably establish this effect.