23.10.2019 | LONE AMDI BOISEN
How ethnically and socially segregated do we Danes actually live? Do we gravitate towards people who are similar to ourselves, or are our children still able to meet children from completely different backgrounds in their neighbourhood? A new analysis from TrygFonden's Centre for Child Research shows that there is no clear-cut answer. In general, early retirement pensioners, employed persons and unskilled workers still live side-by-side in various combinations, but over the past 31 years, the richest families have increasingly moved into wealthy areas, while the poorest families have been referred to other neighbourhoods. However, non-Western immigrants and descendants are living less isolated than before. One of the reasons is that municipalities have succeeded in changing the composition of neighbourhoods so that public housing is more dispersed.
“The idea that permeates the public debate that Danes and non-Western immigrants and descendants are living increasingly segregated from each other is a myth,” explains one of the researchers behind the analysis, Professor Anna Piil Damm from the Department of Economics and Business Economics and TrygFonden's Centre for Child Research at Aarhus BSS.
Together with Postdoc Ahmad Hassani, the Department of Economics and Business Economics and TrygFonden's Centre for Child Research, Aarhus BSS, and Senior Researcher Marie Louise Schultz-Nielsen, the Rockwool Foundation Research Unit, they have meticulously mapped the Danish neighbourhoods. The analysis is a follow-up on and improvement of a similar analysis from 2006.
In the analysis, residential areas in Denmark were divided into 8,359 micro-neighbourhoods and 1,961 macro-neighbourhoods, which reflect a geographic area in which the individual resident has the most contact to other residents. This could be anything from a block of flats in a large city to a suburban residential area.
By linking the areas to population registers, the researchers are able to map changes in the population composition in Danish neighbourhoods over time, and thus the new analysis covers the period from 1986 to 2016.
"The idea that permeates the public debate that Danes and non-Western immigrants and descendants are living increasingly segregated from each other is a myth"
Anna Piil Damm - Professor, Department of Economics and Business Economics and TrygFonden's Centre for Child Researh, Aarhus BSS
D-index measures residential segregation
Based on this data, the researchers are able to calculate a so-called D-index. On a scale from 0 to 100, it measures how divided an area is for different social groups such as employed, non-employed and low-educated persons. More specifically, the index measures the proportion of a particular social group that needs to move in order for it to represent the same proportion of residents in the neighbourhood as in the municipality or the whole country.
If the D-index is below 30, the population group is well integrated in the area. If the D-index is between 30 and 60, the division is moderate, and if the D-index is above 60, the area is very divided and characterised by one population group.
“Generally, the D-indexes are low and relatively stable, which shows that the areas house a variety of social groups that live side by side,” Damm says.
However, a significant change has taken place when it comes to non-Western immigrants and descendants.
“In the entire period, non-Western immigrants and descendants have lived rather separately from the rest of the population. However, although the proportion of non-Western immigrants and descendants has risen from 1.4 per cent to 7.9 per cent in the period, the D-index for this group has gone from high to moderate. On a national level, the D-index for this group has decreased by 20 per cent, and today there is no municipalities with a high ethnic segregation,” Damm says.
The maps show how segregated non-Western immigrants and descendants were living from other population groups in the Danish municipalities in 1986 and 2015. In 1986, ethnic segregation was high in many municipalities, while it was low or moderate in all municipalities in 2015. Slide to the right for 1986 and to the left for 2015. GRAPHICS: Simon Andersen Nørredam
This trend took off as early as the mid-1990s and started to decline particularly steeply from 2002. According to the researchers, this is due to factors such as the legislation stating that newly arrived refugees must be distributed between all Danish municipalities and the strict 2002 immigration laws that have changed the composition of non-Western immigrants and descendants.
“Since 2002, we have seen fewer family reunifications, but more immigrants that come to work or study. This has made it possible to focus on integrating the non-Western immigrants and their descendants who are already here. In fact, a calculation based on data from Statistics Denmark shows that while the proportion of non-Western immigrants and descendants of working age has increased by 4.5 percentage points since 2001, the current number of non-Western immigrants and their descendants in employment has increased by 6 percentage points compared to 2001. This means that more people can afford to buy a house or a flat in areas with more ethnical and social diversity,” says Damm.
Another reason why non-Western immigrants and descendants are now living less isolated from the rest of the population is that politicians have succeeded in dispersing the location of public housing. When it comes to this type of housing, non-Western immigrants and descendants are heavily overrepresented. In 2015, 49 per cent of non-Western immigrants and 60 per cent of non-Western descendants thus lived in public housing, while this only applied to 14 per cent of Danes.
However, the analysis shows that the concentration of public housing in Danish neighbourhoods declined from 80 per cent in 1986 to 70 per cent in 2016. This alone can explain 14 per cent of the decline in the residential segregation between non-Western immigrants and descendants and the rest of the population, says Ahmad Hassani and elaborates:
“Public housing in Denmark is highly concentrated around a few areas. This is particularly pronounced in the large cities where large public housing complexes were built in the 1960s and early 1970s, such as Gellerupparken in Aarhus, where the proportion of non-Western immigrants and descendants is very high today. When the public housing units are dispersed by demolishing housing blocks, converting public housing to owner-partnership flats and constructing public housing in more mixed neighbourhoods, non-Western immigrants and descendants become part of a neighbourhood where they meet Danes in their everyday lives in day-care facilities, the local school or football club.”
The maps show how segregated the lowest income households were living from other population groups in the Danish municipalities in 1988 and 2015. This period has seen an increase in the number of municipalities moving from low to moderate residential segregation of low-income households. GRAPHICS: Simon Andersen Nørredam
The rich and poor have moved apart
During the past 31 years, the residential segregation between the richest and poorest Danes has increased, according to the analysis from TrygFonden's Centre for Child Research.
The D-index, which measures the division of social groups in an area, shows that the division has gone from low to moderate since 1986.
For the richest households, the national D-index has increased from 32 to 35 and from 30 to 36 for the poorest households in this period. This is a new trend, says Professor Anna Piil Damm from the Department of Economics and Business Economics and TrygFonden's Centre for Child Research at Aarhus BSS.
“When we conducted the first analysis of residential areas in 2005, we did not see any indication that the richest and poorest Danes are living more segregated, but now, 15 years later, we do. This is probably a consequence of increased income inequality in Denmark within the same period,” she says.
More municipalities with high D-indexes
It is particularly worrying that the number of municipalities with many neighbourhoods that only house the poorest Danes has gone up in the past 15 years, says Postdoc Ahmad Hassani from the Department of Economics and Business Economics and TrygFonden's Centre for Child Research at Aarhus BSS.
“In the period between 1988 and 2005, there were a few municipalities where the D-index for low-income households was between 30 and 40, but there were no major changes in the period. However, in 2015 we can see that the number of municipalities with a D-index between 30 and 40 has gone up significantly, and for the first time, the D-index for low-income households is over 40 in three municipalities.”
This development coincides with reforms implemented by changing governments that have lowered the welfare payments for immigrants and unemployed persons such as the starting allowance, the cap on social assistance and the shortened unemployment benefit period from four to two years.
The researchers do not know whether this is the reason for the increased concentration of neighbourhoods with poor Danes - and generally, there is limited knowledge of what political decisions mean for the segregation of social and ethnic groups. The researchers will explore this in detail when they embark on a book project that expands the analysis of the Danish neighbourhoods to 2019 and compares the development in Denmark with the development in the other Scandinavian countries.
Facts about the analysis