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Near and Dear? Evaluating the Impact of Neighbor Diversity on Inter-Religious Attitudes

November 2009

Sharon Barnhardt


In a large Indian City, Hindus and Muslims were randomly assigned to live next door to each other in public housing. Barnhardt conducted a survey of the households to determine “explicit and implicit” attitudes about their neighbors of a different faith. She found the by being in close proximity to each other, the two groups interacted more often. More common interaction led, in turn, to a significant improvement in attitudes toward the other group, both implicit and explicit. Hindus, as the majority group, expressed especially improved attitudes toward Muslims (the minority group).

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Policy Implications

When creating public housing, we should seek to create diverse neighborhoods, by placing families of different racial, ethnic, income, and religious backgrounds in close proximity to each other. Importantly, this would allow for further study of the effects, and the possibility to extend Barnhardt’s conclusions into the realm of racial and income diversity. It also seems likely that generally, living in proximity to families different from one’s own will improve attitudes about such families based on Barnhardt’s work. In a diverse society, if we want to decrease violence and tension, housing policy may be a good place to start.

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