Jane Jacobs’ Pathway to Tolerance: Evidence That Urban Structure Influences Attitudes toward Migrants in Great European Cities

Jonathan Kent , Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Could the structure of a city’s streets influence how its residents feel about migrants? Jacobs railed against modernist urban planners who sought to replace the complex fabric of major cities with suburbanized designs that prioritized sunshine and greenery. She theorized that this design trend had resulted in “dull” cities with empty sidewalks and few opportunities for neighbors to interact with each other. In today’s diverse European cities, neighborly interaction may be one key to enhancing social cohesion. Intergroup contact has been shown to reduce prejudice by contact theory researchers, and recent studies have found that even “mere-exposure” to out-groups may have a positive effect on attitudes. Taken together, the work of Jacobs and contact theorists implies that residents of the compact, vital cities should be more likely to hold positive attitudes towards their neighbors—including migrants. Robinson’s framework of geographic variation in attitudes toward migrants concurs and includes environmental factors like urban structure alongside population factors. This paper uses a multilevel dataset from 23 European cities in search of evidence for a relationship between one’s attitude toward migrants and the design of the city they live in. It finds that, when controlling for individual-level factors, residents of cities high in “continuous urban fabric” are more likely to agree that migrants are good for their city, while residents of cities with rapidly growing migrant populations are less likely to agree. In exploratory models, individuals with middle-to-low SES see the strongest influence from urban structure on their likelihood to have positive attitudes.

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 Presented in Session P3. Poster Session Migration, Economics, Environment, Methods, History and Policy