The Effects of Neighbourhood Disorder on Life Satisfaction of Ethnic Majority and Minority Group Members

Evidence From 12 Central-Eastern European Countries


  • Natalia Letki
  • Sabina Toruńczyk-Ruiz
  • Paula Kukołowicz


While research has shown a negative relation between neighbourhood disorder and indicators of well-being, this evidence comes predominantly from Western European countries, relies on subjective measures of disorder, and is indifferent to ethnic specificities. In this paper, we examine the relationship between neighbourhood disorder and life satisfaction across neighbourhoods in 12 Central-Eastern European countries. We use an exogenous measure of disorder, and account for the presence of respondents’ own ethnic group in the neighbourhood, as we propose that it may condition the effect of disorder on life satisfaction. Using survey data covering 18,743 residents of 897 local areas across 12 countries, we found that neighbourhood disorder was negatively related to life satisfaction for both ethnic majority and minority respondents, over and above individual and neighbourhood characteristics. This effect was, however, differently moderated by ethnic in-group share in the neighbourhood for ethnic majorities and minorities. Among ethnic majority members, disorder had a negative effect on their life satisfaction only when there were high levels of co-ethnics' presence in the neighbourhood, but not at low levels. By contrast, for minority members, the negative effect of neighbourhood disorder was significant at lower of levels of co-ethnic concentration, but not at its higher levels. These results suggest that whereas for minority groups the presence of co-ethnics buffers the negative effects of the aversive environment on well-being, for ethnic majority members it plays an opposite role. We argue that members of the dominant, majority population find having to attribute disorder to their in-group problematic, which results in lower life satisfaction.