Paper for enhr conference, Toulouse 2011, ws-16: Minority Ethnic Groups and Housing Explanations for inter-ethnic differences regarding immigrants' preferences for living in ‘ethnic enclaves’ or in multi-ethnic neighbourhoods

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Paper for ENHR conference, Toulouse 2011, WS-16: Minority Ethnic Groups and Housing

Explanations for inter-ethnic differences regarding immigrants' preferences for living in ‘ethnic enclaves’ or in multi-ethnic neighbourhoods
Hans Skifter Andersen

Danish Building Research Institute, Aalborg University

In European countries there are large differences between the settlements patterns of different ethnic immigrant groups. One explanation is that different groups to a different extent have been successful immigrants. Differences regarding their social and cultural integration and their economic resources can lead to differences in their housing and neighbourhood preferences and options. In this paper It is examined to what extent a variation between different groups regarding residential preferences and choices can be explained by their ethnic background, their social integration, their resources and the strength of their feelings of belonging to their country of origin as described by the concept of diaspora. The study concludes that differences in social integration is the most important factor explaining differences between groups concerning preferences for living in neighbourhoods with an ethnic social network they can rely on, so-called ethnic enclaves, or for preferences for living in so-called multi-ethnic neighbourhoods, where there are few Danes but many other ethnic groups. The results of the study thus supports that the American ‘spatial assimilation theory’ has some importance also in Europe. The measure of diaspora does not have a separate importance. But some differences between groups persist, which cannot be explained by degree of social integration. Especially one group, the Somalis, differ by having exorbitant stronger preferences than other groups. Possible explanations could be their lower status and stronger discrimination against them in the Danish society.


In studies of the residential patterns of immigrants in Europe and North America it has been shown that the spatial distribution of immigrants differ from that of the native population and also that important differences exist between different ethnic groups (se for example Musterd 2005, Johnston et. Al. 2002, Finney 2002, Fong and Chan 2010). Immigrants tend to live in other neighbourhoods than natives and often they are clustered together in specific neighbourhoods apart from other ethnic groups. In many countries in Northern Europe in recent years there has been a growth in the number of immigrants and there has been a tendency for these families to settle in certain parts of the housing market and in limited parts of cities (Musterd et. al. 1998). In this way parts of cities have obtained a large share of ethnic minorities and have been transformed to what we call multiethnic neighbourhoods in which citizens of national origin have become a minority.
Some researchers are of the opinion that the housing situation of ethnic minorities can primarily be explained by their lack of resources and by discrimination. Not only economic resources but also cognitive, political and social resources are important (Van Kempen 2003). It is particularly these non-economic resources which ethnic minorities often lack. This is important in parts of the housing market where good contacts to important persons or institutions are decisive for access to dwellings. Some studies (Aalbers 2002, Andersson 1998) point to discriminatory practices on the housing market, where social and private landlords to some extent exclude ethnic minorities from their housing. There could also be discriminatory practices among banks or institutions providing capital for purchase of housing if, as a result of prejudice, ethnic minorities are seen as less solvent customers. As a result of all these factors ethnic minorities are restricted to the least attractive parts of the housing stock, which often are located in certain parts of the cities.
It has also been shown in Denmark (Skifter Andersen 2010) that different ethnic groups have a very different position on the housing market and that there are big differences concerning to what extent they are living in neighbourhoods with a high concentration of immigrants, so-called multi-ethnic neighbourhoods. In statistical analyses it was shown that the moves of ethnic minority households to multiethnic neighbourhoods could not be fully explained by usual housing demand variables such as income, employment, location, family situation etc. The analyses also showed that the presence of households with the same ethnic background in the neighbourhoods have a strong statistical effect on which housing estates ethnic minorities move to. Furthermore it was shown that preferences for living close to family and friends were a very important motive for selecting which neighbourhood to live in.
In other studies there has been pointed to segregation processes called ‘White flight’ and ‘White avoidance’. In the US it has been observed that Whites ‘flee’ when the share of Black residents in their neighbourhood exceeds a certain proportion of the population (Wright et. al. 2005). A British study (Simpson and Finney 2009) has, however, shown that White flight is of smaller importance in the British case. In recent years, there has been a tendency to replace the concept of ‘White flight’ with the more general ‘White avoidance’, meaning that natives tend to avoid moving to neighbourhoods with many immigrants or special ethnic groups (Clark, 1992; Quillian, 2002). A recent study from Sweden (Bråmå 2006) shows that 'Swedish avoidance', i.e. low in-migration rates among Swedes, rather than 'Swedish flight', i.e. high out-migration rates, has been the main driving-force behind the production and reproduction of immigrant concentration areas.
In earlier research the spatial location of immigrants has been closely connected to their social, cultural and economic integration in the host society. According to the American ‘ecological’ theoretical tradition of the Chicago School (Park 1925), the spatial distribution of groups is a reflection of their human capital and the state of their social and economic integration, called ‘assimilation’ (Alba and Nee 1997). The basic tenets of the ecological model are that residential mobility follows from the cultural and social integration (called ‘acculturation’). At the same time residential mobility is seen as an intermediate step on the way to integration. As members of minority groups acculturate and establish themselves in American labour markets, they attempt to leave behind less successful members of their groups and to convert occupational mobility and economic assimilation into residential gain, by "purchasing" residence in places with greater advantages and amenities. This process entails a tendency toward dispersion of minority group members, opening the way for increased contact with members of the ethnic majority and thus desegregation.
A basic assumption in this theoretical tradition is that especially new immigrants for different reasons prefer to settle in neighbourhoods dominated by their own ethnic group, called ethnic enclaves. As stated by Massey (1985): ‘Some degree of geographic concentration is an inevitable by-product of immigration, which is guided by social networks and leads to settlement patterns determined partly by the need of new immigrants unfamiliar with American society and frequently lacking proficiency in English for assistance from kin and co-ethnics’. Others are speaking aboutchain migration processes’ (Johnston et al 2002) where earlier immigrants draw a number of newer immigrants to the host country through kinship and other social networks.
In the opinion of some researchers (Musterd et. al. 1998, 181) this is only a parallel to a known phenomenon among all house hunters: that people want to live with others who have a similar social status and cultural background. Other authors (Wacquant 1997, Peach 1998, Murdi 2002, van Kempen and Ozuekren 1998) have argued that for new immigrants, moving to neighbourhoods with many countrymen – called ethnic enclaves - is part of a strategy for survival and integration in their new country. Some of the arguments for this strategy are that immigrants often have family or friends in the enclaves, who can supply them with a social network, which can reduce their isolation, and who can support them in the face of disadvantage and discrimination. The study of Fong and Chan (2010) thus showed that a considerable percentage of Asian, Indian and Chinese immigrants in Canada considered proximity to family members to be an important reason for moving into their current neighbourhoods. Finally, the feeling of security and safety in a well-known social and cultural environment can be important.
For some immigrants it can also be important that enclaves sustain cultural connections with the home country through familiar language, social networks and ethnic organisations (Wright et. all 2005). This motive is connected to the concept of diaspora, which denote to which extent immigrants feel a split between their affiliation to the host country and their country of birth. This will be discussed further below.
Some American literature has emphasized the significance of ethnic resources in the process of immigrant integration (Alba and Nee, 1997; Bloemraad, 2006). Alba and Nee (1997) have reformulated the understanding of immigrant adaptation patterns by explicitly acknowledging that immigrant adaptation involves a mechanism that they labeled as distal causes. They use the term to refer to larger embedded structures such as co-ethnic resources drawn from co-ethnic institutions and networks. Immigrant studies have generally agreed on the importance of ethnic resources, and have explored the role of co-ethnic resources in various aspects of immigrant integration, such as job attainment (Ooka and Wellman, 2006), political participation (Ramakrishnan, 2005), and educational achievement (Portes and Rumbaut, 2001). Some have thus pointed to that an ethnic network in the enclave can improve the ability of the members of the group to find a job (Portes 1998; Damm and Rosholm, 2005, Wright et. all. 2005).
Often there are also local shops that purchase consumer goods from the homeland. This can make it easier for immigrants to get access to special goods, which they prefer, and reduce the costs of using ethnic goods and services. It has been shown that this for some groups is an important motive for residential choice (Chiswick and Miller 1995, Fong and Chan 2010),
Preferences for ethnic minorities to move to multiethnic neighbourhoods, where they find enclaves, are assumed to depend on the extent to which they are integrated in the new society. A hypothesis can be formulated that new immigrants and less integrated ethnic minorities have a greater need of the support they can get from networks in the enclave, which influence their housing choice. On the other hand, residents in enclaves that during the course of time get a stronger position in the new country could change their preferences in favour of moving away from the enclave. The study of Wright et. all. (2005) in greater Los Angeles revealed that established immigrants were more dispersed residentially than recent conational arrivals, although the effect varied by group. For many immigrant groups, however, these dispersions from concentrations of initial settlement did not reduce segregation from whites. But segregation lessened over time between immigrants and other native-born Americans. For many groups, but by no means all, a dispersed residential pattern is associated with higher quality neighbourhoods. Other studies of ethnic segregated neighbourhoods (Skifter Andersen 2010, Wacquant 1997, Peach 1998) show that even if the share of ethnic minorities remains constant or increases there are many ethnic minorities moving out of the neighbourhoods and being replaced by others.
Earlier 'spatial assimilation theory' (e.g. Massey and Mullan 1984, Massey 1985, South et. Al. 2005), stemming from the earlier research of the Chicago School (Park 1925), has been formulated. It says that immigrants often start their career in the new country by moving to enclaves, but that they often, after some time, move out again to housing that is more in accordance with their resources and needs. In this theory enclaves are only preserved because there is a continuing flow of new immigrants into the country.
There has been some discussion about this in recent years. Competing with the spatial assimilation theory is the 'Ethnic resources' theory (Portes and Bach 1985) or the 'Cultural Preference' theory (Bolt 2006). They both argue that access to ethnic resources and mobility possibilities inside enclaves will motivate ethnic minority households to pursue a housing career inside the same neighbourhood. According to Wright et. all. (2005) this depiction differs considerably in behavioural emphasis, form, and pace from the spatial assimilation scenario in that residential proximity to co-nationals and their descendents endure. It holds that the social connections of newcomers and previously arrived settlers bind immigrants together, frequently in central city locations, in immigrant residential clusters. The successive waves of arrivals who enter the immigrant neighbourhood spin intricate webs of social networks that provide information on housing and labour markets and other institutions. As the number of foreign-born arrivals increases, so too does the density of networks and social bonds. These links operate to unite first-generation immigrants (and their progeny) together in a mutually supportive system of reciprocal relations centred on the immigrant neighbourhood. This version accents the volition of immigrants who choose or who are pressured (via market discrimination) to remain in residential clusters organized by patterns of nativity. A sign of this was found by Fong and Chan (2010), who concluded from their study of Asian, Indian and Chinese immigrants in Toronto that ‘levels of co-ethnic clustering are not related to the economic resources of immigrants’, which points to a persistent clustering among the more integrated members of these groups.

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