Mobility and super-diverse neighbourhoods

Increasing attention is being placed on the impact of new migration flows, and especially on the respective ‘capacities’ of different places to accommodate new immigrants. However, these was little discussion relating to the importance of the different characteristics of places in shaping such patterns of movement – both for old and new immigrants and for indigenous populations.

Through a focus on two super-diverse neighbourhoods in Birmingham, UK, this research – funded by a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship - explored the links between residential mobility and place.  In particular, the research examined the importance of different characteristics of place on shaping individuals' lifestyles, patterns of mobility or fixity, feelings of attachment and belonging and the ‘activity’ spaces of individuals.

Professor Simon Pemberton’s research aimed to provide a critical insight into the ways in which the varying characteristics of super-diverse places inform residential mobility patterns, with the research undertaken in two such Birmingham neighbourhoods - Handsworth and Ladywood.

The former is a traditional reception area for immigrants and where ‘old’ immigrants (those who arrived in the UK more than five years ago) outnumber ‘new’ migrants (those who have arrived in the last five years). Nearly half the population was born outside of the UK.

Ladywood - on the other hand, received the highest numbers of new immigrants (those who arrived in the last ten years) compared to any other part of the city and where nearly two-thirds of the population was born in the UK.

The research involved working with organisations such as the West Midlands Strategic Migration Partnership, the Institute for Research into Superdiversity at the University of Birmingham and local Community Researchers from the neighbourhoods of Handsworth and Edgbaston in Birmingham.

In total, 152 questionnaires, 40 in-depth interviews (migrants and non-migrants) and 20 ‘photo projects’ were conducted.

Key findings of the research include:

  • The connections of super-diverse neighbourhoods to other places and the availability of particular services were influential in shaping individuals’ decisions to move in and stay. Family was also important, although it may not be as important in super-diverse neighbourhoods as in neighbourhoods where a single ethnic group predominates.
  • Individuals’ resources strongly underpin mobility decisions. For some minority ethnic groups, the availability of cultural and religious facilities were important in shaping reasons to move in and stay.
  • An increase in individuals’ own resources, coupled with the presence of family elsewhere; congestion and overcrowding and the perceived attractiveness of other areas were identified as key reasons to leave.
  • Many Eastern European migrants – and who are relatively ‘invisible’ - settled in super-diverse neighbourhoods once they became accustomed to visible difference in populations. They were also attracted by the visible diversity of super-diverse neighbourhoods due to issues of discrimination by the majority white community in other parts of the city and due to intra-migrant tensions with others in Eastern European ‘enclaves’ beyond the area.
  • Whilst diversity was increasingly common, it was not necessarily leading to integration.
  • Language was cited as a key barrier to integration and networking.
  • The continuing predominance of particular ethnic groups was noted as undermining conviviality – conversations with a purpose.
  • ‘Brexit’ had not impinged on issues of conviviality or discrimination, or on mobility intentions, except for those considering longer-term (international) migration.
  • Individuals identified that they had multiple forms of place belonging - to the home, followed by family and the neighbourhood.
  • Discrimination around ‘newness’ to an area undermined belonging for some.
  • Established areas of super-diversity are more likely to provide a number of key activity spaces for local residents compared to areas which have experienced the more recent diversification of their populations.
  • Work and social relations, combined with the presence or absence of particular services or facilities, shaped individuals’ activity spaces towards the neighbourhood or city.

These findings are now informing work – funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (UK) and the Japan Foundation – that is exploring the impact of new and old migrations and diversities in the UK and Japan. It is providing greater levels of understanding about the similarities and differences in the UK and Japan's migration and diversification contexts around migration and integration policy and practice. This will be important for local and national governments, as well as migrant support organisations and housing and planning agencies.

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