Classroom Diversity and its Relation to Tolerance, Trust and Participation in England, Sweden and German


The belief in educational circles is widespread that ethnically mixed schools contribute to inter-ethnic tolerance, trust and community cohesion. Several recent studies from the field of political science, however, have found that trust and participation are lower in ethnically diverse neighborhoods. This paper explores the relation between ethno-racial diversity and civic attitudes in England, Sweden and Germany using data from the IEA Civic Education Study among 14-year olds. Controlling for various conditions at the individual and classroom level, it finds a positive effect of classroom diversity on ethnic tolerance in Sweden and Germany, which is in agreement with the contact perspective on inter-ethnic relations. However, the effect of diversity varies substantially across the three outcomes of interest and the three countries examined. It is therefore tentatively concluded that country-specific factors shape this effect to a significant degree.
Key words: classroom diversity, civic attitudes, majority-minority relations, contact and conflict perspectives