Study asks: Is a 'better world' possible?

Nov 18, 2013
Study asks: Is a 'better world' possible?
Creating communities that are both diverse and socially cohesive may be a pipe dream, argues Michigan State University sociologist Zachary Neal. Credit: Michigan State University

For years, policymakers have attempted to create communities where a diverse group of residents not only live close to one other but also interact freely – in other words, neighborhoods that are both integrated and socially cohesive.

But that might be a lost cause, a Michigan State University sociologist argues in a new study.

As reported in the American Journal of Community Psychology, Zachary Neal found that neighborhood integration and cohesion cannot co-exist.

"Is a better world possible? Unfortunately, these findings show it may not be possible to simultaneously create communities that are both fully integrated and fully cohesive," Neal said. "In essence, when it comes to neighborhood desegregation and , you can't have your cake and eat it too."

The reason has to do with how people form relationships. Neal said people usually develop relationships with others who are close rather than far away, and similar rather than different from themselves (be it through race, religion, , etc.).

Neal ran computer modeling of different fictional and, after millions of trials, consistently found the same thing: The more integrated a neighborhood is, the less socially cohesive it becomes, and vice versa.

"These trends are so strong, it's unlikely policy can change it," Neal said.

He said should instead try to find the right balance between integration and cohesion, which may differ from community to community.

Neal said he started the project because past research had failed to turn up a city that is both truly integrated and cohesive – from the United States to the United Kingdom to Asia. But it's not from lack of effort, he said.

"It's not that local leaders and policymakers aren't trying hard enough," Neal said. "Rather, we now think it's because the goals of integration and cohesion are just not compatible with each other."

Explore further: Children who overestimate their popularity less likely to be bullies

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

No kids in public school? You still benefit

Feb 17, 2012

Quality public schools benefit everyone – including those without school-aged children – and therefore everyone should play a role in maintaining them, according to a study by two Michigan State University scholars.

Recommended for you

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Apr 18, 2014

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

Apr 17, 2014

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

andrewfm
1 / 5 (5) Nov 19, 2013
Are we supposed to be surprised that the results of this computer simulation reflect the assumptions that are built into it?
Doug_Huffman
1.8 / 5 (5) Nov 19, 2013
Is a 'better world' possible?
Hmpf! A study attempting to justify rank progressivism via historicist nonsense. Demarcation sets social-science outside the pale of science as history is not a syllogism and cannot be falsified.
geokstr
1 / 5 (3) Nov 19, 2013
And no doubt just a few hundred thou of taxpayer dollars to show that "birds of a feather flock together", a common-sense folk maxim known to whoever coined that phrase ten thousand years ago.

But the totalitarians believe that human nature is infinitely malleable, so a few "nudges" here and there will create utopia with unicorns in short order. Of course, wherever it's been tried, the proles resist the nudges, which then become shoves, then re-education camps, then gulags for the ones that can't be starved, shot or decapitated. Vendy has volunteered to personally operate the guillotine himself for all those who will not submit.

More news stories

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...