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Diversity can only be seen as an opportunity

Research looks into personal networks in Spain and United States

What kinds of personal relationships develop between immigrants and local inhabitants, and what changes take place between them? These questions are answered by researchers Isidro Maya-Jariego and Silvia Domínguez in a study published in the American Journal of Community Psychology.

Isidro Maya-Jariego, tenured professor of Social Psychology at the University of Seville, and Silvia Domínguez, assistant professor of Sociology at Boston’s Northeastern University, have carried out a novel study looking at acculturation processes, in other words the mutual exchanges that take place when two distinct cultures live together.

The study, divided into two parts, is novel because all research carried out to date in this field had focused on the changes and adaptation efforts made by the displaced population, but there had been little attention paid to the changes undergone by the local population, which accepts the newcomers. In other words, this is what happens “on the other side of the acculturation process, even when the groups do not live directly together”, Maya-Jariego tells SINC.

The first part of the study looks at the personal networks between immigrants and local inhabitants in Seville and Cádiz. In it, individuals living in Spain, but who are originally from Argentina, Ecuador, Germany and Italy, describe the links they have with their neighbours in Spain, with people in their native countries, and also with their compatriots living in Spain.

“We saw that members of the receptor community play a secondary role within the personal networks of the migrant population”, Maya-Jariego tells SINC, although he also pointed out that the data suggest that “this role changes with the passage of time”.

From Andalusia to Boston

The second part of the study was carried out in Boston, United States. The researchers examined personal networks with members of the receptor community, specifically those people who provide help and services to the Latino community. The objective of this was to analyse the impact of this continuous contact on these individuals, who Domínguez calls “bridges of integration”.

The impact of the Latino population on the Americans differed according to the amount of time the two groups spent together. Maya-Jariego says these differences make it possible to define different points in the process of acculturation.

“We can make the distinction between people who are ‘travellers’, ‘on the borders’ and ‘residents’. The first group is only temporarily exposed to Latino culture; the second is constantly exposed, and acts as an intermediary between the migrant minorities and the local majority, while the third group lives immersed within the Latino community,” says the social psychologist.

Latinos are a source of economic, social and cultural wealth for the life of the native population of Boston. “This is an impact that could also be true in other societies in which cultures live together, and is an example of how support for diversity can become a mechanism for confronting social problems,” say the authors.

The benefits of cultural diversity in the workplace are also important. “Intercultural groups are potentially more creative in terms of problem-solving than culturally homogenous ones”, and they are sometimes more effective too, says Maya-Jariego. Diversity, without doubt, “brings innovation and contributes to creativity and social and economic dynamism”, concludes the researcher.

SINC Team | alfa
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