ESRA 2019 Draft Programme at a Glance

Measuring the cohesion of social groups: questions and solutions

Session Organisers Ms Natalia Voronina (NRU HSE)
Dr Maria Kozlova (NRU HSE)
TimeFriday 19th July, 13:00 - 14:00
Room D20

Сohesion is one of the most important indicators to describe the state of social groups and society as a whole. There are different approaches to conceptualize and to measure cohesion as on macrolevel (for example, Cohesion Radar (Dragolov G., Boehnke K., Delhey J., et al., Dickes P., Valentova M. Construction, Validation and Application of the Measurement of Social Cohesion in 47 European Countries and Regions // Social Indicators Research. 2012. Vol. 113. P. 827–846.) and on group level (for example Dupuis M., Studer J., Henchoz al. Validation of French and German versions of a Perceived Neighborhood Social Cohesion Questionnaire among young Swiss males, and its relationship with substance use // Journal of Health Psychology. 2014, Friedkin N. E. Social Cohesion // Annual Review of Sociology. 2004. Vol. 30 (1). P. 409–425)
The variety of measurement techniques indicates a kind of conceptual uncertainty, different techniques use different indicators hence can lead to different results even for the same communities.
We would like to demonstrate new approach of measuring of social group cohesion and its adaptation to measurement of online community cohesion.
We invite to participation researchers who would like to show the results of measurement of different social groups and / or communities cohesion; the studies of cohesion at different levels (micro-, meso-, macrolevels), comparisons of methods for investigating social or group cohesion, results of developing new or refining known methods of measuring cohesion, and especially adapting or developing approaches to measure cohesion of online communities.

Keywords: Cohesion, measurement, social cohesion, online communities

Measuring social cohesion from the ground up: The example of Bremen, Germany

Dr Mandi Larsen (Jacobs University Bremen, BIGSSS) - Presenting Author
Dr Regina Arant (Jacobs University Bremen)
Professor Klaus Boehnke (Jacobs University Bremen, BIGSSS)

Societal togetherness is lived and experienced locally more than anywhere else: in cities, in communities, and in neighborhoods. For this reason, the examination of social cohesion at the local level is also relevant for a greater understanding of societal cohesion, particularly in times of great social change. With this in mind, we conducted a study of community-level social cohesion in the city of Bremen, Germany (Arant, Larsen, & Boehnke, 2016). In Fall 2015, randomly selected Bremen residents (N = 2,605) from 78 of the city’s 88 sub-districts participated in a telephone survey. Survey items related to neighborhood cohesion included those measuring the strength of: social relationships, connection with the community, and a focus on the common good. Following the analysis methods of previous Social Cohesion Radar studies, a cohesion score was calculated for each sub-district. Results revealed no one direct path to strong social cohesion. In contrast to previous national and international studies, neither economic prosperity, nor a strong infrastructure, nor a specific population composition lend themselves to predicting levels of social cohesion at the local level. Instead, sub-districts with higher levels of cultural capital, and those where the residents are satisfied with the quality of neighborhood activities, demonstrate higher levels of cohesion. Moreover, higher levels of social cohesion coincide with greater acceptance of refugees – a topic of great controversy following the influx of more than a million refugees in Germany. Finally, those sub-districts with higher cohesion were also those with greater well-being. In conclusion, our examination of social cohesion at the local level makes clear the diverse needs of communities, and highlights potential measures for improvement of social in communities.

The experience of application of the qualimetrical approach to the measurement of social cohesion under the conditions of Russia

Ms Maria Kozlova (National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow) - Presenting Author
Ms Natalya Voronina (National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow)

We present the results of the project aimed at a qualimetry of the variety of forms of social cohesion in contemporary Russian society. Interdisciplinary analytical review allowed us to operationalize the category of social cohesion through the mechanisms of moral regulation of group life and to provide a list of essential indicators of not only the level of group cohesion, but also of the its quality.
A sample of the empirical research included three types of communities: rural population, population of the eco-villages and the professional community (medical professionals) (N=300). The highest level of cohesion was found in the community of peasants, the lowest one - among the physicians. Differences between groups are related to the qualitative characteristics of cohesion.
The application of the author's questionnaire of social cohesion allowed estimating the level and analyzing the quality of cohesion in the contrasting groups; and the latent class analysis (LCA) helped us to highlight the types (classes) of objects, characterized by similar sets of observable variables: "Alienation", "Traditionalist activism", "Aggregate justice", "Liberalism". The first type - "Alienation" - is peculiar for the majority of the professional medical community, "Traditionalist activism" – for inhabitants of eco-settlements, "Aggregate justice" - for peasants.
Thus, our research allowed clarifying the characteristics and the development prospects of social cohesion in societies of different types. We demonstrated the non-discrete nature of changes in the quality of cohesion, located within the continuum formed by polar "ideal types" – a unity based on the morality of social order and on the morality of social justice. In all the studied communities we described the possible motion vectors within this continuum and the potential scenarios of their interaction with society on the whole.

Can a single-item measure of social cohesion solve the conceptual discordance?

Dr Georgi Dragolov (Jacobs University Bremen) - Presenting Author
Professor Klaus Boehnke (Jacobs University Bremen)

The relevance of social cohesion in the public and policy discourse (at least in the societies of the Western world) has spurred mushrooming research on what makes up a cohesive society, region, city, neighbourhood or group. Taken together, the studies produce a dissonance of conceptual approaches: definitions differ not only across levels of social organization, but also within. It remains unclear to what extent the variety of concepts is the product of genuine theoretical considerations or the indispensable strive for originality in the present-day highly competitive academic environment. If the second speculation is the reason, conceptual discrepancies will persist and, as a consequence, empirical findings may be discordant, too. The stage of development of research on social cohesion, which – metaphorically speaking – is still in its infancy, closely resembles the early stage of happiness research (subjective well-being). There, multi-dimensional concepts gradually gave way to, by now, tried-and-tested single-item instruments for happiness and life satisfaction, whereas the various previously proposed aspects of well-being were assigned the role of domain-level satisfactions that can be efficiently employed to explore specific determinants of well-being across the relevant domains of citizens’ lives. This presentation aims to touch the ground for a transition of research on social cohesion in the above-described direction. It contrasts the multi-dimensional approach of Dragolov et al. (2016) to a single-item measure of social cohesion. The correspondence between the two approaches is explored using data from a representative sample (N = 4,968) of the German society with a regional differentiation. The presentation discusses the pros and cons for the single-item approach.