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How does social distancing affect the relationship between population groups?

Hardly ever before have different groups in the population retreated into their own bubble as much as they are doing today. Professor of Sociology and Law Maartje van der Woude and her students will be examining the effect of social distancing on relationships. How do the people of Leiden look at students and residents with a migration background in the present corona era?

The corona crisis is putting everyone and everything to the test. During the first wave there were many positive reports of solidarity initiatives such as students volunteering to do shopping for vulnerable elderly people. In recent months, however, the atmosphere has become much less united. Student parties that have got out of hand and media reports about the large number of corona patients from non-western backgrounds seem to have polarised society. But is that really the case? Van der Woude: ‘The corona crisis gives us a unique opportunity to look at the effects of a concrete measure such as social distancing.'  

Surveys in local neighbourhoods 

Van der Woude is currently working on the details of the research and from February 2021 a group of law students will be carrying out the survey and conducting interviews with different population groups from different age categories in a diverse range of neighbourhoods. Van der Woude believes Leiden is the ideal city to serve as an interesting test case. 'Leiden claims to be a tolerant place for refugees, but what happens when people are faced with a serious test like this pandemic? How are different population groups experiencing the corona measures? I'm curious about what happens when groups have to maintain a distance - socially and physically - from one another. Does it make them more likely to accept that the government is imposing harsh measures on particular groups? And are there also positive effects?’ 

Broadening the study to other cities

Van der Woude hopes to complete the fieldwork in summer 2021 and aims to present the research findings at the end of that year. She also wants to broaden the research to other Dutch cities. 'Besides all the hardships, the corona crisis can also generate a lot of new insights,' she says.    

Learning with the city
This research stems in part from the Learning with the city partnership, in which Leiden researchers and students carry out research on societal issues together with the municipality. The research also builds further on earlier studies by Van der Woude on how migration issues are influenced through the lens of other societal problems such as criminality.  

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