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Nov 21, 2013 10:11 AM EST

Diverse and Socially Cohesive Communities Are Not Possible, Study

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Since the formation of civilizations, the effort has been to provide a better world for the citizens of  Earth.  But it is not integration but diversity that seems to rule the roost.

Zachary Neal, a Michigan State University sociologist, says that making people from different social, economical and religious backgrounds to live close to one another and foster communities might be a lost cause.

"Is a better world possible? Unfortunately, these findings show it may not be possible to simultaneously create communities that are both fully integrated and fully cohesive," Neal said in a statement. "In essence, when it comes to neighborhood desegregation and social cohesion, you can't have your cake and eat it too."

The reason why neighborhoods integration and cohesion cannot co-exist is based on how humans form relationships.

Neal said that people usually build relationships with others who are closer and similar to themselves, be it through race, religion, social class, etc.

For the study, Neal studied several computer models with fictional neighborhoods and found that the more integrated a neighborhood is, the less socially cohesive it becomes, and vice versa.

"These trends are so strong, it's unlikely policy can change it," Neal said.

Neal suggests government officials to find the right balance between integration and cohesion, which may differ from community to community instead of focusing on creating communities where citizens can live in peace and harmony.

"It's not that local leaders and policymakers aren't trying hard enough," Neal said. "Rather, we now think it's because the goals of integration and cohesion are just not compatible with each other."

Jennifer Watling Neal, assistant professor of psychology, co-authored the study.

The finding has been published in the American Journal of Community Psychology.

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