Ethnic diversity, trust, and the mediating role of positive and negative interethnic contact: a priming experiment.Soc Sci Res 2014; 47:91-107SS
This study not only shows that the empirically well-established negative relationship between residential diversity and trust in neighbors holds for the case of Germany, but goes beyond existing research by providing experimental evidence on the causal nature of the diversity effect. Respondents exposed to experimental stimuli that made salient the ethnic or religious heterogeneity of their neighborhoods display significantly lower levels of trust in their neighbors than do respondents in the control group. Further, we explore the role of interethnic contact in mediating the relationship between diversity and trust in a degree of detail unmatched by earlier studies. We consider not only positive forms of interethnic contact such as friendships, but also neutral and negative encounters between people of native and immigrant origin. We find that interethnic contacts mediate negative diversity effects on trust in different ways for both groups. For natives, distant encounters and negative experiences with immigrants in diverse contexts reduce trust, whereas for people of immigrant origin trust in neighbors suffers from the relatively small number of native acquaintances in diverse neighborhoods.