Unintended Consequences of Persons of Immigrant Origin’s Status Aspirations: Ethnic Skills Gaps and Perceived Diskrimination Across Europe

  • 15 Nov 2017

    17:00-18:00, Clay Room, Nuffield College

  • Sociology Seminar   Add to Calendar
Speaker: Merlin Schaeffer

This event is part of the Sociology Seminar Series. Details to be confirmed.

Previous research shows that children of immigrants, the 'second generation', have comparatively high status aspirations that translate into unusually high transition rates to higher education given their level of performance in school. The particularly high and integration-forstering status aspirations are well established under the term 'immigrant paradox'. Yet, in this talk I present two studies on unintended negative consequences of these high aspirations. For the first study, Jan Paul Heisig (WZB) and I analyze data from 14 countries from the Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). We show that the actual skills of second-generation immigrants are lower than those of natives with similar educational qualifications because their high aspirations let them strive for goals that lie beyond their capacities. These ethnic skills gaps are specifically pronounced in open, 'choice-driven' education systems with little performance-based tracking. The second study links this research on the immigrant paradox to the literature on the so called 'integration paradox'. Research on this second paradox tries to answer why discrimination remains a salient concern among better-integrated persons of immigrant origin who have achieved higher levels of education and found better-paying jobs. I use the EURISLAM survey to argue and show that children of immigrant origin who are not able to realize their (parents) high aspirations tend to feel particularly discriminated against. This pattern is specifically pronounced among those children of immigrant origin who (strongly) agree that "One of the most important goals in life is to make one’s parents proud". A robustness replication and falsification test based on the IAB-SOEP Migration Sample reconfirms these results.

The Sociology Seminar Series is convened by Professor Janne Jonsson. For more information about this or any of the seminars in the series, please contact