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Growing up in Diverse SocietiesThe Integration of the Children of Immigrants in England, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden$

Frank Kalter, Jan O. Jonsson, Frank van Tubergen, and Anthony Heath

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266373

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266373.001.0001

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Immigration and Integration: Key Characteristics of Host Countries and their Immigrants

Immigration and Integration: Key Characteristics of Host Countries and their Immigrants

(p.40) 2 Immigration and Integration: Key Characteristics of Host Countries and their Immigrants
Growing up in Diverse Societies

Jan O. Jonsson

British Academy

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter provides a context to the integration of children of immigrants and their families by outlining key characteristics of our four survey countries, England, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. For many immigrants, these countries are arguably very similar: affluent, safe, modern, democratic and predominantly secular. There are however differences: For example, the Netherlands and Sweden appear to be more ‘child friendly’, and Sweden has more ‘immigrant-friendly’ policies and shows less immigrant-sceptic popular attitudes, while England hosts more highly qualified immigrants. A substantial difference between our four countries lies in the composition of the immigrant population, with large heterogeneity in arriving groups (for example, in their human capital and host country language skills) and their reasons for migrating (labour migrants or refugees). In perspective of such differences, it is a challenge to assign inter-country differences in immigrant integration to receiving countries' differences in policy or other characteristics.

Keywords:   integration, immigration, immigrant reception, immigrant selection, multicultural policy

2.1 Introduction

OUR ANALYSIS OF INTEGRATION needs to be set in context of the receiving countries’ sociodemographic characteristics, policies and other institutional features, as well as the attitudes of their populations. Characteristics of receiving societies will also influence the opportunities for structural integration because different countries have different types of educational systems and labour markets, which may be more or less adapted to immigrants. England, for example, has relatively relaxed job protection and lower entry wages, which may facilitate a rapid inclusion into the labour market (cf. OECD 2016). Germany has an educational system that tracks students, but that also promotes direct transitions into jobs at lower qualification levels (e.g. Shavit & Müller 1998; Müller & Gangl 2003). Lacking any European Union (EU) legislation, European countries have different laws and regulations surrounding immigration and immigrants’ civil rights and welfare state inclusion, and here, as we shall see, the differences between our four survey countries are quite significant.

Our countries also differ in the set-up of immigrant groups—of course, not independently of host-country policies and characteristics. England and the Netherlands have substantial immigration from their old colonies. Germany has a recent history of long-range labour immigration (predominantly from Turkey), while in Sweden a period of short-range labour immigration was followed by a predominance of immigration for humanitarian reasons and connected family reunion migration. In England, immigrants on average have a higher level of education than the native population, while in our other three countries the opposite is true. With English being a worldwide language, immigrants to the latter country also often have a quicker path to integration.

This chapter will describe receiving countries’ characteristics—both similarities and differences—that we believe are vital for immigrant integration, (p.41) in particular for adolescents. Some of these indicators pertain to their parents because their situation determines much of the family resources that children draw on. The chapter is meant as a contextual introduction to the issue of immigration and integration, to put our more detailed studies into perspective. As will become clear, some of the statistics—such as the volume of immigration—are harmonised and have a relatively high level of precision, mainly because national governments have an interest in collecting such statistics. Other characteristics— such as a receiving country’s reception or native groups’ prejudice against immigrants—are, however, more difficult to uncover and sometimes also to interpret. Nonetheless, we think it is of value to include such statistics, even if their sources are often not official statistics but rather survey research and opinion polls. The aim has been to present data that are relatively close to 2010, the starting year of our Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Survey in Four European Countries (CILS4EU) study.

The chapter is divided into six sections. Section 2.2 gives a short introduction of our four survey countries, especially directed to non-European readers. Section 2.3 reports statistics of the immigrant population at large, their composition, size and reason for migration. Section 2.4 addresses the issue of immigrant reception and immigration and integration policies, drawing on previous research on prejudice and policy analysis. Section 2.5 describes the stratification and selectivity of the educational systems that our respondents experienced at the time of interview—perhaps the most immediate contextual factor for our 14- to 15-year-old respondents—and Section 2.6 concludes.

This chapter presents data divided by receiving country (England/UK,1 Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden), thus focusing on what we have described as ‘destination-country influences’. However, our interest lies not only in country differences but also in similarities: the common threads are likely to be of utmost importance for immigrants because they set the scene for the immigrant experience sui generis, at least in a North/Western European perspective.

In this way, this chapter also leads into Chapter 3, in which we describe the characteristics of our sample in terms of immigrant origin and generation, that is, to what extent our respondents emigrated themselves or whether they are children of foreign-born parents—the proportion of which is in itself a consequence of the waves of immigration that precede the period we study. Chapters 1–3 together, in turn, lead more directly into the specific studies in the remaining thematic chapters.

2.2 Key Destination-Country Characteristics

We begin with a short presentation of our survey countries. Table 2.1 summarises some general features, with references found in the table notes. Our four receiving (p.42)

Table 2.1. Selected characteristics of host countries in the CILS4EU study, c.2010





Population size (millions)a







Federal parliamentary republic



GDP per capita USD (2010)b





People per sq. km










size (urban)

9.8 million

3.6 million

1.3 million

1.4 million

Under-5 child mortality rate (per 1,000)c





Homicide rate (per 100k)d





% High truste





Gini coefficientf





Relative poverty rate (50% median)g





% Economically deprived childrenh





Note: OECD figures are for United Kingdom, not England.

(a) Population data 1/1 2011: Eurostat, Tab tps00001; England ONS-ENPOP 2011 (mid-year). First figure for England, second for the UK.

(b) GDP: OECD (2016).

(c) Child mortality, estimates from 2016: The World Bank (2018a).

(d) Homicide, estimates from 2014: The World Bank (2018b)

(e) High trust: OECD (2011).

(f) Gini coefficient from OECD (2016).

(g) Poverty rate (indicator): OECD (2016).

(h) Economic deprivation: the percentage of population 0–18 years of age with an enforced lack of at least three out of nine material deprivation items in the ‘economic strain and durables’ dimension in 2010 (Eurostat 2018).

countries are all in North/Western Europe, within two hours flying time from each other, industrialised, modern, safe, democratic and wealthy. Up until recently they were all part of the EU (England is leaving after the referendum in 2016), and they are all members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). They are also Christian, and predominantly Protestant, with Germany also having a similar share of Catholics. However, none of our survey countries are particularly religious anymore. Remarkably, given their modernity, three out of four are still constitutional monarchies, but all are long-standing democracies with strong emphasis on human rights. The biggest differences between our countries, in addition to some cultural traits, pertain to languages, which are all different (although they belong to the Germanic family of languages), and to population size: Germany and England being the giants and the Netherlands and Sweden more moderately sized (and Sweden more sparsely populated).

(p.43) Child mortality is exceptionally low in all four countries, with 3–4 deaths among 0- to 5-year-olds per 1,000 live births, a figure that is vastly better than many sending countries (e.g. 13 in Turkey, 16 in East Asia, 24 in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries overall, 27 in Morocco, 31 in Iraq, 43 in India and 133 in Somalia). Homicide rates, another example of physical risk, are very low too in all four survey countries, with around 1 intentional homicide per 100,000 inhabitants. The corresponding figures for some of the most common sending regions are markedly higher: 4 times as large in the ‘Arab world’ as well as South Asia and the USA, and a staggering 22 times as large in Latin America and the Caribbean. Similar relations can also be found for human rights—they are well catered for in Western Europe as a whole but disregarded in many of our sending countries. Both personal safety and human rights are, of course, strong reasons for migration in the first place.

All our receiving countries are also high-trust societies, with the Netherlands and Sweden somewhat more so—‘high trust’ there is around 80%. This pattern is typical for most affluent Western countries with the exception of the USA (at 49%), but contrasts again with many of the regions from which immigrants come. Turkey registers 24%, and Chile and Mexico are close to that figure—all in all, South America and Africa tend to be low-trust regions of the world, whereas India, for example, is more similar to Western Europe (Inglehart et al. 2004).

Welfare state provision is high, especially in Sweden and the Netherlands, whereas England is more economically liberal, with greater income inequality and higher poverty rates overall (cf. Esping-Andersen 1990; OECD 2008; Nolan et al. 2014). This appears to have an impact on children, or at least be reflected in their living conditions. In a comprehensive study of children’s well-being, England stands out among our countries with a relatively disadvantageous position, whereas the Netherlands and Sweden are ranked top (Bradshaw & Richardson 2009). It is noteworthy that these differences are not only due to differences in economic inequality across our host countries: the ranking is also consistent for ‘softer’ indicators such as social relations with parents, teachers and peers (Olsson 2011).

All our four countries experienced a long expansion and increasing prosperity in the aftermath of World War II (because Sweden did not participate, it got a head start with regard to post-war economic expansion). The growth from the 1950s to the 1970s was massive, as in many other Western countries, after which economic upturns and downturns have rendered the economies less predictable, although all four countries have seen increasing affluence during this time period as well. As can be seen in Table 2.1, they are fairly equal in average gross domestic product (GDP) per person, although the table also shows that this affluence (in terms of income) is distributed less equally in England. Many Western countries have seen trends towards increasing income inequality since the 1980s and 1990s, and Sweden—in the 1970s and 1980s exceptionally equal—has, since the 1990s, become more similar to other countries in this respect (e.g. OECD 2008; Atkinson 2013).

(p.44) Overall, it would seem that social inequality at large, including inequality of opportunity, is lowest in the Netherlands and Sweden, countries that also have experienced long-term equalisation in educational attainment and social mobility (Shavit & Blossfeld 1993; Breen 2004). Germany stands out as the most rigid of our countries when it comes to such indicators, while England is characterised by a lack of change in the post-war era.

However, if we instead look at immigrant minorities’ chances in the labour market, the picture is slightly different: the relative unemployment rate of immigrants in Sweden is the highest among our receiving countries, much higher than is the case for immigrants in England, and to a lesser extent Germany, while the relative unemployment rate for immigrants in the Netherlands is as high as in Sweden, but at a substantially lower absolute level (OECD 2012a: fig. 6.11). This pattern is likely to reflect receiving-country differences in the composition of the immigrant population, such as language skills, education and reason for migration, but could also be due to labour market characteristics—England has, for example, less strict labour market protection than our other survey countries (OECD 2016). If employment rates are broken down by reason for immigration, however, the differences across our four countries are not great: it appears that immigrants who come for jobs, but do not have one upon arrival, get a job more quickly in England, but after ten years, employment rates are highest in Sweden—refugees, on the other hand, appear to have similar or slightly higher employment success in Sweden (Eurostat 2016).2 Although the data are slightly older, the most comprehensive comparative analysis of occupational attainment (access to jobs in the salariat), controlling for education, shows the ‘ethnic penalty’ for the second generation to be smaller in Sweden than in our other receiving countries (Heath & Cheung 2007).

If we turn to more recent times, which may have affected our CILS4EU respondents (mostly born in 1996) or their families, a few events can be noted. After a period of unprecedented growth, Germany suffered an economic setback in the 1990s (and onwards too) due to the unification of East and West Germany following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Sweden experienced a huge economic crisis in 1991–5 (during a recession shared more modestly by our other countries) at the same time as the country received a very large number of refugees from the civil war in the Balkans, putting a lot of pressure on the welfare state (Palme et al. 2002). The upshot was increasing long-term unemployment and poverty, particularly among immigrants (Jonsson et al. 2016). However, the restructuring of the economy in the 1990s did protect Sweden from the recession in 2008–10, which had a greater impact on many other countries. This is of importance in our perspective, as many immigrant families suffered from this downturn in the economy around the time of our survey in 2010–11. The extent to which this affected children varied across countries, but the severity in terms of child (p.45) poverty appears to have been limited in Germany (only a small increase), while in England both material deprivation and relative income poverty increased between 2007 and 2014 (Cantillon et al. 2017) and in Sweden, the risk of children falling below the breadline actually decreased (Mood & Jonsson 2016).

2.3 Origin Group Influence: A Brief Portrait of Immigrant Groups

All our respondents are part of the new Europe, in the sense that ethnic diversity is tangible in all of our four survey countries (see Chapter 3). Each of these, however, has its own blend of ethnic groups, and each has its unique history of immigration, driven by its geopolitical location, national history, immigration policies and various other idiosyncratic features. While a detailed historical account is beyond the aims in this chapter, such history may impact on the way immigrants are perceived in different receiving countries. Naturally, however, the present composition of immigrant groups, including their relative sizes and their generational status, constitutes a more important context for our respondents, along with the sheer size of the immigrant population. We therefore start by giving a cross-sectional picture of the share of immigrants in our four countries as of 2010, when our survey began.

2.3.1 How many immigrants?

Figure 2.1 shows, as a backdrop, the proportion of foreign-born people in 2010 as well as the growth in the immigrant population between 2000 and 2010 (OECD 2012b). All our countries conform to a pattern that is quite common in present-day Northern/Western Europe, with the foreign born varying between 10 and 15% of the population (other countries with a similar proportion are Belgium, Norway, Austria, Spain and Ireland—as a comparison, the USA has around 12% foreign born). In the United Kingdom and Sweden in particular, this proportion has also risen quite markedly in the 2000s. The demographics of the immigrant population results in a proportion of foreign-born 0- to 14-year-olds—our age group and their younger siblings—that varies between 5 and 8% of the whole population. This means that they constitute a sizeable part of the school-age population.

In addition to this group of foreign-born people comes, of course, those born in the host country but to foreign-born parents (second generation) and those who have one foreign- and one native-born parent (mixed ancestry). We do not show these percentages in Figure 2.1, but they can be estimated from the Labour Force Surveys: in England (UK), they add 3.8 and 5 percentage points (pp) respectively; in Germany 2.9 and 1.4 pp; in the Netherlands 2.7 and 5.8 pp; and in Sweden 2.9 and 6.7 pp (Eurostat 2011: table 3.1).3 However, these figures pertain to the (p.46)

Immigration and Integration: Key Characteristics of Host Countries and their Immigrants

Figure 2.1 Proportion of foreign born (total and children 0–14) in host countries, and increase in total proportion foreign born, 2000–10.

Source: For change in % foreign born 2000–10 and the % foreign born: OECD (2012b: figure I:11, p. 51); for proportion 0- to 14-year-old foreign born: OECD (2012b: figure 1:2).

working age population (25–54) and not to young people, for whom comparable statistics are hard to come by. It appears to be a valid estimate that among those up to age 10–15 somewhat over 20% (England, Netherlands, Sweden) and up to 30% (in Germany) have at least one foreign-born parent (Statistisches Bundesamt 2017: 37; Statistics Netherlands 2016; Statistics Sweden 2016).

2.3.2 Which are the most common immigrant groups?

Our receiving countries have different patterns of immigration. England and the Netherlands, with their colonial history, have a substantial proportion of immigrants from former colonies—England from Australia, India, China and Pakistan, for example; the Netherlands from Suriname, the (former) Netherlands Antilles and Indonesia. Germany has a large number of labour migrants from Turkey, but also noteworthy immigration from the former Soviet Union and from German-speaking areas in (former) Eastern Europe. Sweden’s immigrant population has changed substantially from being overwhelmingly Nordic in composition to being more Middle Eastern, but the characteristic that stands out is the increasing diversity of immigrant groups—this reflects the change from immigration for labour market to humanitarian reasons, which includes refugees (see, further, Chapter 3).

For our respondents, both the stock and flow of immigrant groups are potentially of importance. The stock is of interest because it is the proper indicator of the actual ethnic composition of the host country. The flow, in reflecting the more recent experience of diversity, is important for two reasons: for children of immigrant origin especially, residential segregation means that many from (p.47)

Immigration and Integration: Key Characteristics of Host Countries and their Immigrants

Figure 2.2 The size of the five major immigrant groups as a percentage of all foreign born in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden, 2010 (stock)

Source: Own calculations from OECD iLibrary International Migration Database.

such recently migrated groups become their neighbours and schoolmates; and the recent immigration is more likely to influence the image of the out-group for the majority population (although more so in countries where previous waves of immigrants have integrated into the host society). Figure 2.2 reports an ‘immigrant stock indicator’, namely the five biggest immigrant groups (foreign born) in our host societies in 2010, expressed as a share of the total foreign-born population that year. These figures obviously summarise the migration flows across several generations, starting in the interwar period, so even if these are all foreign born their level of integration will most likely vary quite a lot.

The results demonstrate the numerical importance of traditional immigrant groups already mentioned, such as the Indians born in the United Kingdom, the Turks in Germany, the Finns in Sweden and the Surinamese in the Netherlands. We can also note that the only groups that overlap between our host societies are the Poles, a large group in both England and Sweden, and the Turks, who remain the biggest immigrant category in Germany and the Netherlands. Other notable non-European, non-Western groups are the Pakistani group in England, the Kazakhs in Germany, the Moroccans and Indonesians in the Netherlands and the Iraqi and Iranian populations in Sweden. It is also of interest that immigrants from neighbouring countries are common in the stock perspective—the Irish in the United Kingdom, the Poles in Germany, the Germans in the Netherlands and the Finns in Sweden.

Turning to an indicator of the recent inflow of immigrants, we get a slightly different picture. Figure 2.3 shows the percentage contribution of the five major immigrant groups in the most recent decade before our survey, namely in 2000–9, to the total inflow of immigrants those years (they do not total 100 because there (p.48)

Immigration and Integration: Key Characteristics of Host Countries and their Immigrants

Figure 2.3 The size (%) of the five major immigrant groups arriving in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden, respectively, in the period 2000–9 (inflow)

Source: OECD (2012b: table I.A1.1)

are many other groups with smaller rates as well). This picture is of numerical importance because it covers a period with rather high immigration, especially in England and Sweden, so the visibility of these groups is likely to be high.

The most striking feature in Figure 2.3 is the dominance of Poles among the immigrants in the new millennium in all our survey countries, but particularly in Germany. In the Netherlands, colonial immigration is not so dominant anymore, whereas it is still important in England. In Sweden, the shift towards refugee immigration is visible in the dominance of Iraqi migrants and in the share of Somalis.

2.3.3 Migrants’ reasons for moving and their human capital

The character of the immigrant population is defined to a significant extent by their reasons for migration. These may have a profound impact on immigrant children’s life chances in several ways: among the group who come for humanitarian reasons there is a risk that children carry stigma from war and misery, and that their parents will have much greater problems finding jobs than immigrants who come to study or for work. Reasons for migration are also related to the human capital immigrants possess (among which are both educational credentials and proficiency in the host-country language). For example, taking the EU average, after three years only 20% of refugees were employed, compared with 75% of labour migrants; after ten years the corresponding figures were 55 and 80% (EU 2016: fig. 4).4 (p.49)

Immigration and Integration: Key Characteristics of Host Countries and their Immigrants

Figure 2.4 Reasons for migration among permanent-type immigrants, 2006–10 (average % of total inflow)

Source: OECD (see footnote 5).

Figure 2.4 reveals the most common reasons for ‘permanent’ migration in the period 2006–10, when there are comparable data (Fron et al. 2008).5 There are some noteworthy differences across our receiving countries. Sweden has a relatively large share of immigrants who have come for humanitarian reasons, augmented by many family reunions. During the period under study, all our countries had free movement of people within the European Economic Area (EEA, which comprises the EU plus the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), mainly Norway and Iceland) and such flow of labour was also common, particularly in Germany and the Netherlands. However, England (as the major representative of the United Kingdom) instead has a large proportion of immigrants outside of the EEA coming for work. England also has a comparatively large share of ‘others’, which predominantly consists of immigrants with UK ancestry.

A striking difference between our four countries is the degree of human capital in the immigrant population. Figure 2.5 verifies that the total group of foreign born are actually more highly educated than the native group in England, a country in which there has also been, since 2008, a points system focusing almost exclusively on highly educated migrants. The opposite is true for our other countries, particularly Germany, whose immigrant group predominantly consists of low-skilled workers coming for manual industrial jobs.

However, in all survey countries there is a non-negligible proportion of highly educated immigrants, and on average the immigrant group is ‘positively selected’, (p.50)

Immigration and Integration: Key Characteristics of Host Countries and their Immigrants

Figure 2.5 Proportion of immigrants and natives with tertiary education in host countries, 2010.

Source: For population figures: OECD (2012c: table A1.3a), total tertiary education, ages 25–64. For foreign born: OECD (2012b: table I.15), based on Database on Immigrants in OECD Countries (DIOC), Labour Force Surveys.

Note: The definitions of higher education are not necessarily fully comparable across groups (foreign born and population) because they are based on different statistics, but the figures are comparable across host countries.

that is, they are drawn from the upper half—typically from the upper quarter—of the educational distribution in their home countries (Engzell & Ichou 2016).

A crucial form of human capital for immigrants is proficiency in the receiving-country language, and here those who migrate to England have a real advantage compared to those who move to our other three countries (see also Chapter 9). In 2009, for example, almost half of all immigrants to the United Kingdom had English as their official language, while this was true for around 15% in the Netherlands and Sweden and less than 5% in Germany (although this figure does not include those from German-speaking areas in the former Soviet Union) (OECD 2012a: fig. 1.15).

2.3.4 Immigrants’ religion and religiosity

In most receiving countries, immigrants make up a visible and visibly different minority—in particular the non-European immigrants. One of the key differences is that the latter often confess to another religion, but perhaps even more that they are more religious (van Tubergen & Sindradóttir 2011; Aleksynska & Chiswick 2013; cf. Chapter 10).

In all our four countries immigrants have contributed to the growth of the Muslim population, which is characterised by strong religiosity. The Muslim minority is estimated to be around 4–5% (England and Sweden) to 6% (Germany (p.51) and the Netherlands), that is, around one third to half of the immigrant community.6 The proportion of religions other than Christianity and Islam is very small, but due to immigration the diversity of Christian groups has increased—and again via groups who are much more religious than domestic ones (e.g. the Christian Syrians in Sweden).

2.4 Destination-Country Influence: Immigrant Scepticism and Integration Policies

2.4.1 In the eyes of the natives: Attitudes to immigrants

An important part of the reception of immigrants is, of course, the views on immigrants held by the native population. This is an area where there are scant official statistics but important descriptive information from attitudinal surveys.

While it is difficult to know what reception specific origin groups get in different countries, survey data on more general attitudes reveal that among the countries we study Sweden stands out as the most ‘immigrant-friendly’ society (although there is, to be sure, considerable xenophobia in some camps even in Sweden). This is true for attitudes towards immigrants from poor European and non-European countries alike (Malchow-Møller et al. 2009), for attitudes towards diversity and repatriation for legal immigrants and for opposition to giving immigrants legal rights (Coenders et al. 2005). People in England, Germany and the Netherlands, in no clear order, are in most cases far more sceptical about immigration. The same basic tenet can also be found in the attitude survey in Transatlantic Trends (2013). In several respects, the English stand out as the most sceptical to immigrants and to diversity. Some examples of such attitudes are given in Table 2.2.7

The scepticism that many express towards immigrants should perhaps be seen in the light of the cultural values that are typical of our survey countries as compared to the numerically most important sending countries. In the ‘cultural map’ analysed through the World Value Survey (Inglehart & Welzel 2005), the most fundamental differences in cultural values occur along two dimensions: self-expression values rather than survival values and secular-rational values rather than traditional values. Scoring high on self-expression means having attitudes in favour of, inter alia, environmental protection, tolerance of ethnic and sexual minorities and gender equality, while those holding survival values emphasise economic and physical security. For those holding traditional values, religiosity, deference to authority and family ties are important, whereas this is not the case among those (p.52)

Table 2.2. Various indicators of immigrant scepticism in host societies (%)





Immigration—more problem than opportunitya





Overestimation of % immigrants in pop. (in % points)a





Too many immigrants in countrya





Resistance to multicultural societyb





Opposed to civil rights for legal immigrationb





Favour repatriation for legal immigrationb





(b) Coenders et al. (2005: table A2.6.1) (note that ‘England’ is Great Britain, and ‘Germany’ is West Germany); data from 1997/2000/2003.

embracing secular-rational values. In a cross-tabulation of these dimensions, our host countries are characterised by secular-rational and self-expression values and Sweden is in the extreme corner, representing the modern, secular, individualistic, gender-equal and democratic Western hemisphere. In the opposite corner we find several of our biggest sending countries, such as many sub-Saharan African countries, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Morocco, Turkey, Iran and Iraq, where people hold more traditional values and express the ‘survival values’ that are typical for poorer and developing countries. Although many immigrants, of course, also come from countries with values much more similar to our host countries, it is quite possible that visible immigrant groups with an unfamiliar value system and religion nevertheless create an image of the entire immigrant group for the native-born population as very different, even threatening.

2.4.2 Immigration and integration policies

Some views of immigrants are institutionalised in the form of legislation and administrative rules addressing policies around immigration and integration. The widely respected and comprehensive Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) is constructed to measure policies for integration, related to the rights, access and opportunities for migrants in eight different areas: labour market, family reunion, education, political participation, permanent residence, access to nationality, anti-discrimination and health. Comparable figures for our countries are available from 2010, and the time trends are presented in Figure 2.6. Higher values mean more ‘immigrant-friendly’ policies.

Sweden is ranked as the most ‘integrational’ of the 38 European and OECD countries covered by the MIPEX, both in 2010 and 2014.8 Our other (p.53)

Immigration and Integration: Key Characteristics of Host Countries and their Immigrants

Figure 2.6 MIPEX 2010–14

Source: http://www.mipex.eu/download-pdf (policy_indicators_finalwebsite.xlsx)

Note: Higher values represent more immigrant-friendly integration policies

three countries are all close to the EU15 average, but while Germany became more integrational between 2010 and 2014, both the Netherlands and the United Kingdom fell in the MIPEX ranking. It is difficult to know to what extent this might have repercussions for the adolescents we surveyed in 2010/11, but it is possible that this trend reflects sentiments that were already in train at that point.

MIPEX is the most comprehensive index of national integration policies, but there are several other, more specialised indices. A classification of immigration and integration policies, from 2011, is presented by the United Nations (UN 2013) and summarised in Table 2.3. It is clear that England and the Netherlands had the most restricted view on immigration, and Sweden the most expansionist view—at the same time the net immigration rate was by far the highest in Sweden (at 0.58%), as compared to England (0.33%) and particularly to Germany (0.13%) and the Netherlands (0.06%). These figures reflect the political situation at around the time of our survey, but may not, of course, represent the situation upon our respondents’ or their families’ arrival, nor their cumulative experience.

A slightly different picture of our countries emerges from indices of citizenship or civic integration—often considered to be key indicators (although there does not seem to be any convincing empirical evidence for this). Koopmans et al. (2012: table 7) present a country ranking on their ICRI (Indicators of Citizenship Rights for Immigrants) index for 2008, where Sweden comes out on top, but where England and Netherlands are clearly ahead of Germany. In her CIVIX (Civic Integration Policy Index), which lays weight on citizenship requirements, Goodman (2012) argues that Germany and England, while ostensibly similar with regard to civic integration, differ according to the sequence of policies, and that (p.54)

Table 2.3. Immigration and integration policies in 2011, UN classification





Immigration policy

View on immigration

Too high


Too high

Too low

Policy on immigration





Policy high-skill immigrants





Integration policy

Family reunification





Policy non-nationals





Policy naturalisation





Source: UN DESA (2013).

Germany should rather be classified as ‘prohibitive’, while she locates England and the Netherlands as ‘conditional’ as to such integration. Sweden is here again clearly most ‘immigrant friendly’, positioned in the ‘enabling’ category, meaning that there are almost no demands on immigrants and that they acquire citizenship swiftly.

Finally, a particular dimension of integration policies is ‘multiculturalism’, where Banting and Kymlicka’s Multicultural Policies (MCP) index measures the degree to which destination countries apply policies for ‘positive recognition’, ‘accommodation’ and ‘support’ for ethnic minorities, including affirmative action, exemptions from dress codes, dual citizenship and support for cultural activities and bilingual education (e.g. Banting & Kymlicka 2013). Of the eight indicators (and maximum score), Sweden scores highest of our countries at 7, but in contrast to the indices of overall integration England has a relatively high score of 5.5, while Germany (at 2.5) and especially the Netherlands (at 2) score appreciably lower. The MCP index arguably covers tolerance to minorities and ‘immigrant friendliness’, but because multicultural policies also favour separate treatment of ethnic groups, and encourage their cultural differences, critics claim that such policies hold back rather than facilitate integration (e.g. Sniderman & Hagendoorn 2007).

To summarise this section, it is a rather systematic result that the English (or UK citizens) are more sceptical about immigrants and immigration than the German, Dutch and—particularly—the Swedish population (though even in Sweden not everyone is welcoming). When it comes to policies for integration, the only outstanding result is that Sweden is consistently ranked first, independent of which index we rely on. There is no clear ordering of the other three countries though—England ranks low on general integration but higher on civic integration, while Germany tends to rank higher on the former but lower on the latter. In addition, there appears to be a trend where England and the Netherlands have become more cautious as to immigration and immigrants and Germany more ‘immigrant friendly’ over time.

(p.55) 2.5 Immigrants’ Children in the Destination-Country School System

Our respondents face very different school systems, something that is likely to be influential not only for immigrants’ children’s structural integration but for their social and cultural integration as well—apart from their family, the classroom is the most important context for adolescents, and one aspect of national school systems is the composition of the school class.

We can conceive of modern educational systems as being structured by their degree of stratification and selectivity (Jackson & Jonsson 2013), and stratified systems can also be categorised by the degree of standardisation as a principle for selecting students (van de Werfhorst & Mijs 2010). A highly stratified system consists of tracks or schools of very different quality or status, thereby making placement in, or choice of, tracks and schools crucial. This is supposedly all the more important the younger the age at decisive junctures in the educational system (e.g. Hanushek & Wößmann 2006). With regard to this, Germany and the Netherlands stand out as having the most stratified educational systems of our four countries (cf. Bol & van de Werfhorst 2013). In both, early selection, at ages 10–12, is the rule, and pupils are then placed into tracks of different character and with different demands on cognitive ability (e.g. vocational, general, academic). Even if there is a theoretical possibility of moving between tracks, in practice this does not occur very often. The unfavourable tracks are, to a high degree, the destiny of immigrant pupils (Kristen & Granato 2007; Dollmann 2010). England and Sweden, both with predominantly comprehensive schooling up to age 16, afford pupils more time in the same type of education, but residential and other types of segregation still make for ethnic segregation across schools (see Chapter 5). In England, there is also a private (independent) school sector hosting around 7% of the student cohort (Ryan & Sibieta 2011) but with a high impact on elite positions in business and politics.

The second dimension of interest is the selectivity of an educational system. A highly selective system puts weight on pupils’ previous school performance (e.g. grades, teacher advice) for track placement—and this is the case for both Germany and the Netherlands. Low selectivity is instead typical of educational systems where the track a pupil ends up on is a function of the free choices of students and their parents, a system more akin to the English and Swedish cases. We know from previous research that selectivity is to the advantage of working-class children whose educational aspirations are generally lower than their school performances would predict (e.g. Erikson & Jonsson 1996; Dollmann 2011; Jackson 2013). The interesting thing is that the opposite is true for ethnic minority students. They profit from a choice-driven system because their aspirations are high, as verified by their educational choices at given levels of grades—this is the case for England and Sweden (Jackson et al. 2012) as well as for the Netherlands (van de Werfhorst & van Tubergen 2007) and Germany (Dollmann 2017).

The selectivity in the German and the Dutch school systems counterbalances some of the inequalities stemming from the high degree of stratification, while the (p.56) high standardisation in the Netherlands probably contributes to reducing social inequality even more (cf. van de Werfhorst & Mijs 2010). But for immigrant children the situation is not so advantageous. Because they generally perform worse in school, as measured by grades and test results (e.g. Heath & Brinbaum 2014), they are more likely to run into one-way streets in these early selection systems. For our respondents, this may well mean that when we survey them, at around age 14–15, they have already been tracked into unfavourable educational paths in Germany and the Netherlands, thereby possibly impeding their structural integration. Implicit ability tracking (‘streaming’) will probably have the same consequences and is—as far as can be reliably measured—more prominent in Germany and the Netherlands than in England and especially Sweden (Salchegger 2016). Because segregation in schools is likely to also slow down social and structural integration, it is possible that this will mean that such integration is more rapid in Sweden and England.

2.6 Conclusion: Minority Integration in Destination Countries

With our survey on 14- to 15-year-olds in 2010 in England, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden, we dive in at a particular historical moment and in a particular host-country set-up with our overarching question concerning the integration of children of immigrants. Nonetheless, we believe that it is possible to see our countries sharing in a common contemporary script of challenges and opportunities in a period of substantial migration from poorer countries to richer. The challenges are not only on the side of the migrants or their children, but also for the native population and the institutions that are responsible for administrating this incorporation of new citizens (such as the school and health-care systems, the housing and labour markets and employment and welfare offices). Modern countries are, however, not new to meeting such challenges, and our respondents, mostly born in 1996, are certainly not the first children of immigrants to be part of our host countries’ health, child-care and school systems.

It is clear from the results we have shown, however, that the challenges are non-trivial: relatively high proportions of the native populations are sceptical of large volumes of immigrants; many share a worry about the influx of different cultures, values and religions. But there is also definitely support for immigration and tolerance to immigrants among many natives in our survey countries, and it is quite possible that individual immigrants are appreciated even among those who express distrust in immigration in general. Nevertheless, the cultural differences are potentially an obstacle not only for children’s acculturation but also for the reception of immigrants, while the socioeconomic disadvantages that immigrant families often experience is a further possible stressor. While we register little discrimination in schools, the tracked systems in the Netherlands and Germany could present a barrier for immigrant children, if for no other reason that they often belong to disadvantaged social classes who are normally disfavoured by such systems.

(p.57) For many immigrants, countries like England, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden probably appear very similar—after all, to those from poorer regions of the world they must all give the impression of being safe, modern, democratic, gender equal and affluent. This is certainly correct as seen from a distance, but the review in this chapter also points to differences. Welfare systems and overall ‘child friendliness’ are certainly better in the Netherlands and Sweden than in England, for example, and the levels of socioeconomic equality and trust are also higher. In several respects, Sweden stands out as a more welcoming country for immigrants, with policies (as measured by various indices) at the top level in international comparisons, with comparatively low levels of immigrant scepticism and with exceptionally low child material deprivation. In all these dimensions, England shows polar values while the Netherlands appear to be closest to Sweden, with Germany mostly hovering in-between.

Insofar as children’s integration also depends on their families’ labour market integration, England boasts more favourable statistics, to some extent because of the more resourceful composition of the immigrant population, but possibly also because of lower entry wages and a less regulated labour market—in contrast to our other three countries. These characteristics could increase the chances of first-generation immigrants getting a footing in the labour market, but for those who have been in the host country for at least ten years—affecting the second generation—Germany and Sweden actually have slightly higher employment levels. As an immigrant country, England has, however, one advantage over most other countries in Europe: a world language—meaning that settling in should, on average, be appreciably easier for immigrants.

However, when we consider the differences between our host countries, it is likely that the characteristics of the migrant families are most decisive for the overall integration of children of immigrants, as discussed in Chapter 1. And here the comparison between our host countries becomes complicated, because, as we have shown, the immigrant population of each country is composed of quite different groups. This also applies—as will be evident from Chapter 3—to ostensibly similar groups such as Turks, a sizeable immigrant group in Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. To give a rough characterisation of host-country differences: England and the Netherlands have a relatively large share of colonial immigrants (who, however, come from remote regions and are not necessarily culturally close, although often have host-country language skills); England especially has a ‘positive’ selection in terms of immigrants’ human capital (but, like our other host countries, quite a dispersion in this respect); Sweden has many refugees, who face greater difficulties in the labour market (in all countries alike); Germany hosts many low-skilled immigrants who come for unqualified jobs.

The exposition in this chapter (just as in Chapter 1) shows the striking heterogeneity of the immigrant population and the receiving-country composition of immigrants groups. Outright comparisons between receiving countries are thus difficult to make, but must remain an issue for continuing study. While we believe (p.58) that the empirical evidence that we draw together in this volume can usefully feed into a discussion about integration policy, such discussion is unlikely to be settled on the basis of data such as ours alone. To carry out convincing empirical tests of policy effects would require both larger data sets, including more countries, and complementary methods, for example, experimental or quasi-experimental research designs. But as we hope that our analyses show, future studies are well advised to follow our lead in collecting harmonised comparative data at the individual level, enabling researchers to clear two common hurdles: controlling for compositional effects and heterogeneity in immigrant populations and comparing effect sizes across generations, origin groups and destination countries.


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(1) In several of the data sets we draw on, we have to approximate England with the United Kingdom (UK), which is the customary basis for the EU and OECD statistics.

(2) The figures are from 2014, the only year when it is possible to cross-classify the reason for immigration with employment rates. There are no data for the Netherlands.

(3) The figure for mixed origin in Germany is estimated from information on the nationality, not country of birth, of parents, which leads to an underestimation of this group’s size.

(4) These figures come from the Labour Force Surveys of 2008. Note that because the statistics are cross-sectional, the employment rates do not adjust for the difference in the compositions of immigrants at various years after migration.

(5) There are data for earlier periods, but they do not separate out immigration for humanitarian reasons and/or free movement, and their comparability is dubious: OECD reports the new data from 2008 and onwards in International Migration Outlook (the years 2008–12, and data linked in these publications have been used for constructing Figure 2.4). Note that ‘permanent type’ of migration excludes season workers, students, asylum seekers and temporary workers such as au pairs (Fron et al. 2008).

(7) It should be noted that surveys of this type attract rather low response rates (usually below 50%), and it is not advisable to interpret percentages as an absolute truth (quite aside from the fact that attitudes can change over time). However, we believe that the intercountry pattern is, overall, robust. It is strengthened by the similarity in results from the Eurobarometer (Coenders et al. 2005), the European Social Survey (Malchow-Møller et al. 2009) and Transatlantic Trends (2013).