Universität Bielefeld

© Universität Bielefeld

Institut für
interdisziplinäre Konflikt- und Gewaltforschung

Immigrants and Ethnic Minorities in European Cities: Life-courses and Quality of Life in a World of Limitations

Short description
The LIMITS project comprises research among first generation immigrants from different sending countries, in six cities in five European countries. The project aims to identify trends in the life courses of six selected groups of immigrants. It employs a double viewpoint: a comparative perspective across different groups in six European cities, and a longitudinal perspective on the migrant’s complete life trajectory which has been almost entirely missing from migration research.

The cities included into the analysis are Amsterdam, Bielefeld, Lisbon, Rotterdam, Stockholm and Vienna. The selection of these cities was based on their metropolitan character and their countries’ specific histories of immigration and political frameworks. The immigrants included in the research are identified by their place of birth. The research is thus focused on the so-called first generation. The sending countries included in the research are Turkey (Amsterdam, Bielefeld, Stockholm and Vienna), Morocco (Amsterdam and Stockholm), Serbia (Bielefeld and Vienna) and Cape Verde (Lisbon and Rotterdam). Besides, in Lisbon immigrants with an Indian (Hindu) ethnic and religious background, mostly from former Portuguese colonies in Africa, are included in the research. Except for their status of being born abroad, respondents had to meet two other criteria. They had to be at least 35 years of age, and to have a residence in the receiving country of at least 15 years. Of the populations selected for the local surveys, 300 interviews per group were realised. The total dataset comprises 3.300 cases.

The collected data cover the lives of the respondents on a wide spectrum of domains. The longitudinal format enables the detailed analysis of the post-immigration life course on the domains of household, housing and relation to the labour market, using the statistical methods of Event History Analysis (EHA). Every change in the household composition, and every spell in the housing and labour market career has been recorded, documenting
the basic characteristics of every change and spell. For three moments in the post-migration life course of every individual respondent, at the start, the middle of stay and the current situation, additional relevant data on the housing and labour market circumstances were collected. Besides, extensive data on intra- and inter-group relations in the informal sphere were likewise for these three moments collected.

Moreover, the trends to be discovered this way in post-immigration careers can be related to 1) a rich set of pre-migration data, covering amongst other things the educational and labour market profile of the parents of the respondents and of the respondents themselves prior to migration, their (urban or rural) living conditions in the country of origin and their region of origin, 2) the history of immigration of the respondents and that of their families, including the complete history of the formation of the household, trans-national social networks and migration motives existing prior to the arrival in the destination country, 3) the educational attainment of the respondent in the destination country and his/her second language proficiency, and 4) the educational and labour market profile of the partners and all the children of the respondent.

Being a pilot study, its most explicit aim is the provision of a unique dataset for longitudinal analysis, accessible for every social scientist active in the field of migration. In the final report we have focused on basic analyses that map out for the social scientific community the possibilities of the dataset, and the directions into which further analyses could develop. A number of findings already give occasion to point to some do’s and don’ts for policy.

Acquired skills through education and work in the country of origin have played an important role in succeeding to escape the most unskilled and elementary jobs at the bottom of the labour market of the country of destination. We recommend that policy be less fixated on the ‘danger of immigration’, and allow for a more balanced approach to the phenomenon, considering seriously the skills and education which today’s immigrants bring with them when they come to Europe.

Concerning labour market participation, in all the diversity over cities and groups we have observed that women in each group and city have a lower participation rate than men. Simultaneously, however, we could establish that, in contrast to males, females’ participation rates do increase with further education in the country of destination. Here an apparent opportunity for policy presents itself: intensification of schooling of women of immigrant background of the first generation, focused on specific occupations in specific sectors of the labour market, might well pay off.

A sizable group of large families with already a long history in their new country still lives in congested circumstances. Its offspring is born and raised in the European Union, but their chances are negatively affected by their living conditions, which should be improved through a more effective housing policy facilitating a sufficient number of sized and affordable dwellings for the groups involved Fears that friendships among immigrants and participation in immigrant institutions restrict social participation in the encompassing society are not warranted. The opposite has been shown: Persons with an active integration into immigrant social life are better integrated into the receiving society than those with few ties with co-migrants. Against the background of these findings, political considerations of curbing down collective migrant activities to stimulate participation in formal and informal networks of the receiving society seem ill-founded.
Externe Kooperationspartner
Zentrum für Soziale Innovation, Wien, University Dundee, Schottland, Centro de Investigação e Estudos de Sociologia, Lissabon, Portugal, University of Amsterdam, Niederlande, University of Uppsala, Schweden, University of Bochum.
Herr Dr. Kurt Salentin
Frau Dr. Anja Stichs
Cooperation partners
Institut für interdisziplinäre Konflikt- und Gewaltforschung
Europäische Union