About the project

The Project

Cities and the Challenge of Diversity: a Study in Germany and France

Project leader: Karen Schönwälder
researchers: Christian Jacobs, Julia Martinez-Ariño, Michalis Moutselos, Maria Schiller, Alexandre Tandé


Diversity has long been a distinguishing feature of cities and their populations. And yet, novel processes of diversification present new challenges: as postwar immigrants have become settled and recognized parts of the population, ongoing immigration adds to an increasingly heterogeneous population. Furthermore, other processes, such as the development of a broader variety of family forms and concepts of partnership, contribute to an increasing diversity of life trajectories and life concepts, particularly among the inhabitants of large cities. Politically, the recognition of difference and explicit “diversity” policies have gained more prominence.

This project investigates how urban actors in Germany and in France respond to diversity. While a considerable body of research specifically on cities and migration exists, both a changing reality and gaps in the existing literature call for a theoretically and empirically systematic approach.  As distinct from previous work, this project extends the focus beyond the city government and administration to a wider range of actors to capture the shift from urban government to urban governance. The implications of governance structures for the representation of previously disadvantaged groups are one key interest of the study. We also study a large number of cities in two countries to allow systematic comparisons of cities and gain insights into what drives their responses to diversity.

The project started in 2014. It involves a large survey of urban actors in forty major German and French cities, as well as case studies of selected cities, policy fields and organisational developments.


Key research questions are:

  • how cities intervene in structures and relevance of diversity (through explicit and implicit diversity policies);
  • how diversity is represented in governance networks;
  • in what ways responses across cities and the two countries differ and what drives different responses.