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Tuesday 14th July      Wednesday 15th July      Thursday 16th July      Friday 17th July     

Wednesday 15th July, 16:00 - 17:30 Room: N-131

Long-Term Cross-National Assessment of Social Cohesion

Convenor Professor Klaus Boehnke (Jacobs University Bremen )

Session Details

Cohesion as a social indicator reflecting the quality of contemporary societies is a topic of increasing importance in times of globalization and a significant increase in migration flows around the world. Several different conceptualizations of social cohesion have been offered in the literature, but a comprehensive empirical assessment of social cohesion across time and in various regions of the world has not been provided yet. Recently Bertelsmann Foundation commissioned an attempt to provide a benchmarking concept and a secondary data-analytic approach to assessing social cohesion in the OECD world since 1989. Conceptually, the Bertelsmann project defines social cohesion as a multidimensional characteristic of a collective measured at the micro, meso, and macro levels on nine dimensions, namely social network quality, trust in people, acceptance of diversity, identification with the social entity, trust in institutions, perceived fairness, solidarity and helpfulness, respect for social rules, and magnitude of civic participation. Empirically the study had Scandinavian countries emerge at the top of the social cohesion ranking and South-Eastern European states at the bottom among 34 countries. Bertelsmann also commissioned an analysis on the development of social cohesion in the 16 German states since the fall of the Iron Curtain and fueled research into antecedents and consequences of social cohesion. Currently extensions of the research program to the local level in Germany as well as to other regions of the world are discussed, and so are future assessments of social cohesion based on newly gathered data. Several contributions from the Bertelsmann project will form the backbone of the suggested session, but both a critical view at the concepts and analytic strategies of the research published so far as well as independent contributions to social indicator research in the sphere of social cohesion will be highly beneficial for the session.

Paper Details

1. The Essentials of Social Cohesion
Dr Jolanda Van Der Noll (University of Hagen)
Dr David Schiefer (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.

2. What makes societies cohesive? And what is cohesion good for?
Professor Jan Delhey (Jacobs University Bremen)
Mr Georgi Dragolov (Jacobs University Bremen and BIGSSS)
Dr Zsòfia Ignacz (Free University Berlin)

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.

3. How cohesive are modern societies? Evidence from the Bertelsmann Cohesion Radar
Mr Georgi Dragolov (Jacobs University Bremen and BIGSSS)
Dr Jan Lorenz (Jacobs University Bremen)
Dr Zsofia Ignacz (Free University Berlin)

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.

4. Do individual-level value preferences impact country-level social cohesion? An exploratory multi-level analysis based on ESS data
Dr Mandy Boehnke (University of Bremen, Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences (BIGSSS))
Professor Klaus Boehnke (Jacobs University Bremen)

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.

5. Problems of Equivalence of Social Cohesion Measurement: Evidence from Post-Communist Countries
Ms Ekaterina Lytkina (National Research University Higher School of Economics, Laboratory for Comparative Social Research, Department of Sociology)
Ms Natalya Voronina (National Research University Higher School of Economics, Department of Sociology)

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.