Long-Term Cross-National Assessment of Social Cohesion
|Convenor||Professor Klaus Boehnke (Jacobs University Bremen )|
The social cohesion literature repeatedly criticizes a lack of consensus regarding the theoretical conceptualization of the construct. The current paper attempts to clarify this ambiguity by providing a systematic literature review and taking a bird’s eye view on previous conceptualizations of social cohesion. We suggest three essential dimensions: (1) social relations, (2) identification with the geographical unit, and (3) orientation towards the common good. Each dimension is further differentiated into several sub-dimensions. Additional elements identified in the literature (e.g., shared values, inequality) are, so our argument, rather determinants, respectively consequences, of social cohesion, but not constituting elements.
Over the past 20 years, research on social cohesion has been mainly concerned with defining what cohesion is, and how cohesion can be measured. However, much less is known about key determinants and outcomes of social cohesion. Based on the recently developed Bertelsmann Social Cohesion Index for 34 Western societies, our contribution presents evidence on what the main societal conditions for cohesion are, considering factors such as modernization, economic conditions, inequality, ethnic diversity, the value climate, and globalization. With respect to outcomes it demonstrates that living in a cohesive society enhances individual life satisfaction.
Following its theory-based dimensionalisation of cohesion, the Cohesion Radar utilized secondary data from academic and institutional sources to construct an index for 34 Western societies in four time periods since 1989. The measurement of the dimensions follows a reflective index building approach, whereas that of the overall cohesion index – a formative one. In the overall ranking Scandinavian countries occupy the top positions and Southeast European countries – the lowest. Cohesion appears a considerably stable social indicator over time. Cluster analyses on the nine dimensions reveal four major country groups with specific “regimes” of cohesion.
Recently the degree of social cohesion in 34 OECD countries was evaluated in a study by Bertelsmann Foundation. This paper relates country-level cohesion scores for the time between 1989 and 2012 to individual-level value preferences. Wave 1 to 4 ESS values data were separately linked with country-level social cohesion scores from (1) a prior time period, (2) the same time period, and (3) a later time period. Earlier tradition values reduce later social cohesion; earlier self-direction values increase later social cohesion. However, earlier social cohesion reduces later preferences for security values. For the other Schwartz values.
The project addresses the difficulty of measurement of social cohesion in a cross-country perspective. Among the key problems are: using social cohesion as a “catch-all-term“, concepts equivalence across countries, especially in more traditional cultures or countries with different political regimes. In our research, we compare two operationalization approaches: that of Cohesion Radar (Schiefer et al. 2012, Dragolov et al. 2014) and Dickes, Valentova (2013) using the EVS 2008 data (with certain adaptations) in post-Communist countries. Results prove to be contradictory. We propose possible adaptations of the operationalization approaches.