Diversity and Contact (‘DivCon’)

Diversity and Contact (‘DivCon’)

Karen Schönwälder
Steven Vertovec
Sören Petermann
(GESIS Leibniz Institute in Cologne)
Jörg Hüttermann (Bielefeld University)
Thomas Schmitt (Erlangen University)
Mijal Gandelsman-Trier (Hamburg University)
Christian Jacobs
Miles Hewstone (University of Oxford)
Katharina Schmid (University of Oxford)
Dietlind Stolle (McGill University, Montreal)


hile it is a common claim that immigration not only changes the immigrants but the receiving societies as a whole, it is surprising how little we know about the actual character and extent of such changes. How are different kinds of diversity experienced in daily life? What are the effects of such encounters? How does the socio-demographic and cultural diversity of societies affect the social interactions of individuals and groups within them? At the centre of this project, the MPI-MMG has conducted a major longitudinal survey in 50 randomly selected urban neighbourhoods with various degrees of immigration-related diversity. Three waves of the survey were conducted in 2010, 2011 and 2012 with 2500 respondents in the first wave. The survey was supplemented by systematic observations in the 50 neighbourhoods and a data base on their socio-demographic features. Targeted ethnographies and in-depth interviews were conducted in 5 selected neighbourhoods to provide further evidence.

Results are of relevance for the development of contact theory, for research on the effects of socio-demographic diversity, on social networks, ethnic boundaries and on neighbourhood effects. Data on the frequency and extent of cross-group interactions show that neighbourhood contact between residents of non-immigrant and immigrant background is common. Higher levels of immigration-related diversity lead to more frequent contact; diversity thus has positive effects. Further, a majority of the urban population in Germany has weak and strong ties across ethnic boundaries. Diversity is increasingly incorporated into views of normal, unspectacular urban life. The DivCon-project provides evidence on e.g. how diversity is now part of neighbourhood narratives, on conditions of more and less frequent intergroup interaction as well as its interpretation. As predicted by contact theory, more interaction goes along with more positive attitudes to immigrants and diversity. Further analysis of the panel data will provide deeper insights into causal mechanisms.

DivCon-results have been presented at several major academic events. They included an international conference in Göttingen in April 2011, conferences of the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) in Reykjavik (August 2011), of the European Sociological Association (ESA) in Geneva (September 2011), of the International Sociological Association (ISA Forum) in Buenos Aires (August 2012), the German sociological association (DGS) in Bochum, and the IPSA-conference in Montréal.


Apart from a technical report, a number of articles have been published in social science and social psychology journals. A book publication will come out in spring 2016 (flyer). 

DivCon survey information

The questionnaire of the 1st wave is available here: DE EN.

A technical report on the DivCon survey 2010 (wave 1) is available here:
full text   short version without appendices

The survey data will be made available for analysis by other researchers in 2016.