ETHNIC DIVERSITY DISCOURAGES TEENS FROM ‘HANGING AROUND’: evidence from England

12 Aug 2019

Teenagers are less likely to ‘hang around’ their neighbourhood if they live in an ethnically diverse area but more likely to if they live in an ethnically concentrated area. This is the key finding of research by Elena Fumagalli and Laura Fumagalli, published in the August 2019 issue of The Economic Journal, which examines how ethnic diversity affects the behaviour of teenagers aged 14 and 15 years old in England.

The research also shows that taking part in ‘purposeful activities’, such as sports, youth clubs or community activities, is not impacted by ethnic composition. While both hanging around and purposeful activities increases the number of friends teenagers have in adulthood, hanging around leads to more risky behaviour such as smoking, drinking and drug use. In contrast, purposeful activities boost teenagers school effort and educational attainment.

Using a large survey of young people in England year nine at school in 2004, the study finds that the ethnic composition of a local authority has a large effect on the likelihood that young people hang around with friends near their home. Teenagers living in the most ethnically diverse local authority areas were between 9-13% less likely to hang around with friends near home than those in a local authority with a median level of ethnic concentration.

In comparison, teenagers living in the areas with the highest levels of ethnic concentrations were 11-24% more likely to hang around than those in local authorities with a median level of ethnic concentration.

When the authors looked at more ‘purposeful’ activities like playing sports, joining youth clubs or taking part in political activities or community work, they found no relationship between the local authority’s ethnic diversity or ethnic spatial concentration and the likelihood of teenagers taking part. 

Neighbourhood ethnic composition and social participation of young people in England by Elena Fumagalli and Laura Fumagalli is published in the August 2019 issue of The Economic Journal

Elena Fumagalli

Assistant Professor | Utrecht University

Laura Fumagalli

Senior Research Officer | University of Essex