Research on diversity: recommendations for the future

Recommendations for the future:

  • Diversity and identity should be approached as multidimensional concepts. Need for clarifying its meanings.
  • The power of diversity should be emphasised and taken as starting point.
  • Governments should offer space for diverse identities.
  • Rethinking the concept of full citizenship to include equality (equal rights) and recognition of diversity/difference.
  • Interaction between different groups, related to perception, conflict, ethics and solidarity.
  • Exchange of best practices of policy approaches towards cultural diversity; comparisons between countries, between cities and between different actors.

Focus on difference in diversity policies

Glastra (1999) distinguishes three policy approaches:

1. The deficit approach aims to reduce inequality between the dominant group (the norm group) and other groups in society.

The risks of this approach are: if one tries to combat inequality, one creates inequality.

The dominant group functions as a “norm group”. It is criticised for being too one-sided.

2. The discrimination approach focuses on prejudices, ethnic discrimination and exclusion

Both the deficit and the discrimination approaches aim at reducing differences.

3. The differentiation approach takes differences as the point of departure. Diversity is looked at as a source of innovation and is connected to economic performance.

Cultural diversity as the focus of policies


Multiculturalism Monoculturalism
– Legal and political recognition of minority cultures and identities coexisting in a territory.  


– Support to organisations

– Quota regulations

– Strong legal action against racist crimes

– Empowering or protecting marginalized groups

– UK, Nordic countries, Ireland, Slovenia

It has become unable to create conflict-free, multi-ethnic societies.

Unified society with political stability, internal security, economic growth and equal opportunities for all individuals, regardless their origin.  

– Focus on the active citizenship of ethnic minorities.


– Common national identity

– Related values

– Learning national language

Monoculturalist and multiculturalist visions are related to different understandings of diversity.

Vision 🙂 Positive consequences of diversity 😦 Negative consequences of diversity Cause of negative consequences Combating negative consequences
Monoculturalist None – Social deprivation of groups/ limited social cohesion. Diversity is the cause of problems.- Deprivation is caused by cultural factors of migrants. – Citizens as individuals.- Collective identities not accepted nor stimulated
Multiculturalist Enrichment of culture Structural inequality between groups – Unequal opportunities/ sources of deprived groups.- Social-economic factors. 

Host society.

Increasing sources/opportunities of deprived groups.- In law and policies, diversity is not a problem. 

Pragmatic approach towards diversity.

Source: Based on Vermeulen, F. (2008) Diversiteit in uitvoering: Lokaal beleid voor werkloze migranten jongeren in Amsterdam en Berlijn. Amsterdam/Den Haag: University of Amsterdam/NICIS institute (p. 17)

Public and academic debates and their weaknesses

Main debates and conceptions of inclusion and integration of migrants in the 20th century in Europe:

It is important to understand that changes in political and social contexts  changes in attitudes towards newcomers.

1945-80s Early 90s Late 90s
– Political commitment to democracy
– Impulse to think inclusively
– Concentration on cultural diversity for the integration of migrants
– Cultural difference is not equally understood across Europe
– The leading principle on integration is citizenship
– Focus on the active citizenship of ethnic minorities
– ‘New realism’: ethnic minorities are expected to learn the language and adopt norms and values of the society.
–  Integration understood as a question of identity.

Diversity defined as ethnicity

  • Narrow definitions of diversity and identity; limited to ethnicity.
  • Aspects such as socioeconomic background, gender, age, language… are NOT CONSIDERED.

Stigmatising cultural dichotomies

  • Cultural diversity is approached negatively, not as an opportunity.
  • Two views on immigration:
    • As a long-term process where people find their way
    • Immigration as a problem. Negative relationship between city, immigration and integration

Negative approach to cultural diversity

  • Danger of using cultural dichotomies for social cohesion.
  • The construction of difference may stigmatise a whole group for ages.

The multidimensional nature of diversity and identity

Read the definitions of diversity and identity.