The increasing ethnic diversity of Western societies comes with questions of belonging and social cohesion, also in the school context. In a recently published study, ISS researcher Clemens Kroneberg, Hanno Kruse (University of Amsterdam) and Andreas Wimmer (Columbia University) examined how the composition of school classes affects feelings of belonging and social cohesion.
The study uses survey data from 6200 14-15-year old students from 423 school classes in England, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden. The researchers examine the consequences of classroom compositions in which students of different ethnic origin tend to be also of the opposite sex – e.g., when girls of Turkish origin face mostly boys without a migration background.
The results show that such attribute alignment strongly reduces the frequency of inter-ethnic friendships in the school class. Moreover, attribute alignment weakens ethnic minority students’ feelings of belonging to the nation. Students without a migration background are not affected by attribute alignment. This confirms theoretical expectations as those students usually take their national belonging for granted and are widely accepted by society as members of the nation.
To reduce segregation and promote a shared national identity, schools should try to avoid attribute alignment when allocating students to classes. The study is part of the project "Social Integration and Boundary-Making in Adolescence" funded by the European Research Council and has also resulted in a Policy Brief of the Cluster of Excellence ECONtribute.