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The challenges of diversity for current societies: Its impact on social capital and well-being through the lens of identity (DivID)
Start date: May 1, 2015, End date: Apr 30, 2017 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Today, widespread availability of transportation together with the globalisation of job markets and changes in current economies has increased the numbers of immigrants in Europe and around the world. Societies are in constant flux, and have become more diverse than ever before. It is thus not surprising to see, within the social sciences (and also in politics and public debate), concern about the impact of these changes for societies. In fact, this increasing concern has escalated to pessimism about the possible effects of diversity and multiculturalism. Robert Putnam (2000) in his book Bowling Alone showed that in diverse communities, people tend to have less trust in neighbours, lower political efficacy, lower levels of voter registration, and are less likely to work on community projects and contribute to charity. Since then, this negative view of diversity has been voiced across multiple social sciences (e.g., economics, sociology, and political science). The present project proposes to evaluate critically these pessimist findings. First, the increasing mobility of people around the world sets a range of challenges that clearly require certain forms of both identity change and development of new identities for individuals and their societies. Although this is a crucial topic underpinning concerns about diversity and multiculturalism, identity processes have been neglected in previous work. The project will adopt a social identity approach to examine when and why diversity has negative implications for societies. Second, it is vital to understand how current policies manage diversity and counteract the decline of social capital. The project will develop analyses of practical benefit to leaders and policy makers responsible for managing the broad range of identity-related challenges faced by Europe and the world today. The stakes here could not be higher. These challenges — and society’s response — can be seen to constitute a defining issue of the 21st century.
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