Developing a cost benefit analysis of social cohesion for use in evidence-based migration policy
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Sussex
Unit of AssessmentArea Studies
Summary Impact TypePolitical
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Demography, Sociology
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.
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
- 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
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
- 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
Reviewed by an internal and an external reviewer.
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
- 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'
- 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
C1.3 Email from MAC Secretariat to Saggar (18th
C1.4 `Ministerial Submission' (9th December 2011)
C1.5 MAC website: www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/aboutus/workingwithus/indbodies/mac/
C1.6 Head of Analysis, Research and Knowledge Management, Home
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