Explaining relationships between ethnic diversity and formal social capital across European countries and regions.
In this study we aim to describe and explain the relationship between ethnic diversity and formal social capital (cf. Pichler and Wallace, 2007), which encompasses involvement in formally constituted civic organizations. This type of social capital has been linked to several positive societal outcomes, like the success of democracy, as well as wealthier, healthier and less criminal societies (Putnam, 1993; Wilson, 2000; Halpern, 2005). Therefore, it is of special interest to study to what extent ethnic diversity affects people’s involvement in such organizations, as formerly proposed by Putnam (2007). Previous research on this relationship is, however, not only rather scarce, it also calls for improvements on at least three important aspects. First, previous studies did not take into account the distinction between different types of civic organizations. In this paper, we will use a more elaborated (cross-culturally equivalent) measurement of formal social capital, taking into account the level of involvement (e.g., membership, donating money) for leisure, interest and activist organizations (cf. Van der Meer, Te Grotenhuis and Scheepers, 2009). Second, previous research on the relationship between ethnic diversity and formal social capital, only addressed the direct relationship, without disentangling the underlying mechanisms. Putnam (2007) referred to conflict theory as well as contact theory, which might explain this relationship, both suggesting different underlying mechanisms. However, he did not elaborate on, nor empirically test the proposed mechanisms. In this study, we aim to explain the relationship between ethnic diversity on formal social capital, by focusing on these indirect effects. Third, using data from the European Social Survey (2002/2003), we will extend previous research by considering three levels: individuals, regions and countries. In this way, we will be able to disentangle the direct and indirect effects of ethnic diversity (both at the country- and regional-level) on formal social capital more accurately.