Developing a cost benefit analysis of social cohesion for use in evidence-based migration policy

Submitting Institution

University of Sussex

Unit of Assessment

Area Studies

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Demography, Sociology

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Summary of the impact

Immigration has affected modern Britain substantially, and the impacts have been felt in areas such as jobs, housing, education, language and social cohesion. As a result of this research the government now has a model for accounting for the effects of social cohesion in formulating policy. Saggar et al were tasked by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to develop original research on social cohesion and integration impacts in close proximity to policy-makers. Using this research, they were asked to supply direct policy advice to the Home Office; as a result, ministerial advice changed from a claim that the measured social impacts were broadly negative to agreement that, for cost-benefit analysis purposes, these were zero.

Underpinning research

The impacts described here originate with two pieces of research conducted by Shamit Saggar since his arrival at Sussex in 2004. In his book Pariah Politics (2009) [see Section 3, R1] and the article `Boomerang and Slingshots' (2008) [R2] he investigated conceptual issues that shape the empirical measurement of social cohesion. In particular this earlier work highlighted the need to focus on active versus passive standards of evidence, the interplay between individual perceptions and objective measures of integration, and the extent to which feelings of common purpose transcend differences of ethnic background.

As a result of the conceptual approaches developed in this research, Saggar was asked to carry out a study for the Migration Advisory Committee investigating the impacts of social cohesion and integration. To do this Saggar assembled a research team consisting of:

Dr Rob Ford (Manchester); Dr Maria Sobolewska (Oxford); and Will Somerville (Migration Policy Institute).

The commissioned research comprised three interlocking parts, each of which constituted specific deliverables for MAC:

  • A review of theoretical, conceptual, empirical and comparative investigations of the `Impact of Migration on Social Cohesion and Integration'.
  • A study of methodological and practical challenges in `Measuring the Impact of Migration on Integration and Social Cohesion'.
  • A final report (drawing on the former two outputs) containing a) specific strategy for measuring the myriad relationships between immigration, and b) a selected basket of social impacts, alongside an empirical case study focused on two particular aspects of cohesion and integration.

The final report [R4] was able to build a coherent strategy for empirical examination of social impacts that was then deployed via a detailed case study. In doing so, the combined effect of the research was to create a framework for measurement and thus inform a broader framework for evidence-based public policy being shaped by MAC. This aspect of the underlying research is central to assessment of its impacts as described in Section 4 below.

Furthermore, the five main empirical findings of the research made an original contribution to knowledge and to informed policy understanding:

  • There are powerful distinctions in conceptualising and empirically measuring national identity effects as against integration/group outcome effects as against social cohesion effects. For example, they may interact: cohesion perceptions may be nuanced by how immigrant groups perform (on integration) or by worries among citizens from the white majority over national identity.
  • The choice of measure is critical — for example whether we assess employment outcomes or the rates of intermarriage — and different immigrant groups perform differently depending on the measure.
  • On national identity, the trend over time is away from an ancestral understanding of Britishness to one based more on civic values. There is little evidence that immigration has played a role in this.
  • On cohesion, the analysis indicates that deprivation—not migration—best explains peoples' perceptions of their local area. However, existing diversity may partly explain differences in levels of cohesion.
  • The findings are qualified by shortcomings in the data, not least the inability to drill down to ward level as a more suitable proxy for neighbourhood than local authority level.

The above are derived in part from previous academic research as well as used in the MAC published research output (see Section 3 below).

References to the research

R1 Saggar, S. (2009) Pariah Politics: understanding Western radical Islamism and what should be done. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.


R2 Saggar, S. (2009) `Boomerangs and slingshots: radical Islamism and counter-terrorism strategy', Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 35(3): 381-402, DOI: 10.1080/13691830802704533.


R3 Saggar, S. and Somerville, W. (2011) Building a British Model of Integration in an Era of Immigration: Policy Lessons for Government, Washington DC/Berlin: Transatlantic Council on Migration.
Reviewed by an internal and an external reviewer.

R4 Saggar, S., Somerville, W., Ford, R. And Sobolewska, M. (2012) The Impacts of Migration on Social Cohesion and Integration, London: Home Office/Migration Advisory Committee.
This report went through the civil service review process.

Outputs can be supplied by the University on request.

Details of the impact

There have been two important pathways to impact for this research.

1. The provision of social impact inputs to an economic cost-benefit model for migration in the formulation of an immigration policy framework [see Section 5, C1]:

Ministerial advice changed from a claim that the measured social impacts were broadly negative to agreement that, for cost-benefit analysis purposes, these were zero.

Findings were presented to Home Office ministers and MAC officials (23/9/2011), with the MAC Secretariat praising the report: `We are very pleased with the content of your report and the contribution that it makes to the literature in this area... [I]t will be useful for the MAC and policymakers to be able to draw on [your] discussion of this issue and the distinctions that you make in future' [C1.3]. The report [C1.2] was subsequently published on the Home Office website (1/2012), forming part of a widely cited and highly regarded set of evidence-driven academic reports from MAC to policymakers. The report led to an important shift in the policy recommendations submitted to ministers, switching from an emphasis on negative social impacts to an emphasis on the limited impact of migration on social cohesion, and a call for greater focus on economic deprivation [C1.1].

2. Impact through opinion-formers in think tanks, commentators, experts and journalists:

These users have digested the findings and conclusions leading to better-informed public policy. This latter path has been widely punctuated by use of the research by third parties [C2].

The MAC study has enabled the team and individual team members to continue to influence senior policy-makers and thought leaders in regard to the shape of immigration and integration policy reform. Examples include:

  • Involvement of two team members (Saggar and Somerville) in the Advisory Group for the IPPR's Progressive Migration Project (launched July 2013) [C2.1]. Key outcome: key pillar of IPPR's final report, `Fair and democratic migration policy: A principled framework for the UK' (January 2013).
  • Presentation of a joint paper (Saggar and Somerville) on `The UK model of integration' to the Transatlantic Council on Migration (November 2011) [C2.2]. Key outcome: elite buy-in of policy-makers and opinion formers to the model identified in the MAC study.
  • Involvement of one team member (Saggar, as a Demos Research Fellow) in the Demos Integration Index project (launched June 2013) [C2.4], and as a member of the Advisory Group of the IPPR project on Everyday Integration (begun September 2013) [C2.1]. Key outcome: underpinning the intellectual and practitioner rationales for both highly visible projects and influencing elite opinion formers concerned with migration and integration policy.
  • Involvement of one team member (Saggar, as a British Future Trustee) in the Integration strand of work of British Future [C2.5]. Key outcome: underpinning the integration strategy and supporting strand of project and campaign work of BF.
  • Presentation of key findings to a COMPAS Breakfast Briefing event — including key UKBA officials and NGO representatives (March 2011). Key outcome: agreement that the study demonstrated the key, replicable elements of a robust empirical analysis of social impacts [C2.6].
  • Involvement of one team member (Saggar) as Chair of the ESRC Understanding Society Ethnicity Advisory Committee (May 2013 onwards). Key outcome: influencing the locus of the new ethnic minority boost of the US study.
  • Involvement of one team member (Saggar) as a member of the BSA Immigration Attitudes Advisory Board (May 2011 onwards).

Sources to corroborate the impact

C1 Impact through the MAC:

C1.1 Chair, Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), can corroborate contribution of the research to the cost-benefit analysis and its use in policy and ministerial advice.

C1.2 Saggar, S., Somerville, W., Ford, R. & Sobolewska, M. (2012) `The Impact of Migration on Social Cohesion and Integration: Final report' (January);

C1.3 Email from MAC Secretariat to Saggar (18th November 2011)

C1.4 `Ministerial Submission' (9th December 2011)

C1.5 MAC website:

C1.6 Head of Analysis, Research and Knowledge Management, Home Office

C2 Wider impacts of the work and use by policy-oriented organisations:

C2.1 Associate Director, IPPR

C2.2 Executive Director, Migration Policy Institute

C2.3 Vice-chair, Policy Network

C2.4 Director, DEMOS

C2.5 Director, British Future

C2.6 Director, Migration Observatory