Surveying super-diversity in South Africa: Contact, attitudes and job-seeking

Owen Crankshaw (University of Cape Town)
Miles Hewstone (University of Oxford)
Hermann Swart (Stellenbosch University)


South Africa is a country renowned for its ethnic and cultural diversity. Compounded by recent migration patterns, South African society is a good example of a social context characterized by ‘super-diversity’. Hence, South Africa offers an intriguing context for testing the potential of Contact Theory for improving intergroup relations in diverse societies. This research is based on a survey study exploring the intergroup relationships between white, black (African), coloured (mixed racial heritage), Indian South Africans and African foreigners living in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Using a stratified probability sampling survey design, 1,500 people in each city have been surveyed.

The primary focus of this research is to explore the extent and nature of both direct (e.g., as friends) and indirect (e.g., as friends of friends) forms of intergroup contacts between members of these different groups in the neighbourhood, at work and in educational settings, and how these different types of contact experiences impact on the intergroup attitudes and intergroup relations amongst these groups. Advanced statistical techniques, including structural equation modelling and multi-level modelling, are being used to test the various hypotheses associated with this study. A further focus of this project and of particular relevance to the South African context – where unemployment rates hover at 25% – includes the investigation of job-seeking behaviours amongst South Africans of different ethnic backgrounds and African foreigners. Data collection for this project has been completed and analysis is currently underway.