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Comparison as a Tool

Integration Processes

If the immigrant integration process is propelled by interactions between immigrants and the receiving society at the different levels, within the three dimensions and taking into account the time factor, the best way to explain diversity in outcomes is through comparative empirical studies. There are two main types of comparisons, each measuring different elements of our heuristic model. In the first category are studies that compare the integration processes of different immigrant groups in the same institutional and policy context of a nation or a city. Such studies reveal that different immigrant groups may follow different paths of integration. For example, in the Netherlands, Vermeulen and Penninx (2000) show that Moluccan, Surinamese, Antillean, Southern European, Turkish, and Moroccan immigrants differ in the speed of their integration and in the pathways they follow. Whereas some groups (e.g., the Chinese and Portuguese) have been quick to use the education system as a route to social mobility, other groups (such as the Turks) were more strongly involved in entrepreneurship. The consequence of such comparison is that the factors found to explain differences lie primarily in the characteristics of the various immigrant groups (thus, the left side of our heuristic model), simply because the national or local context into which immigrants are being integrated is the same.

A second category of comparative studies examines the integration of the same immigrant groups in different national or local immigration contexts. Koopmans (2010), for example, investigates the effects of integration policies and welfare state regimes on the socio-economic integration of immigrants in eight European countries. The comparison leads this author to conclude that multicultural policies, when combined with a generous welfare state, produce low levels of labour market participation, high levels of segregation, and a strong overrepresentation of immigrants among those convicted for criminal behaviour. Another study of this kind is The Integration of the European Second Generation (TIES) project, a comparative analysis of the position of the children of Turkish, Moroccan, and Yugoslavian immigrants in 15 cities in eight European countries (Crul et al. 2012). That research asked how we might explain the higher educational attainment of second-generation Turks in Sweden and France compared to that in Germany and Austria, and why attainments are different when it comes to access to and integration into the labour market. One of its conclusions is that the contextual conditions created by institutions (e.g., schooling arrangements and labour market, citizenship, and welfare policies) are paramount to explain differences in educational and labour outcomes. Comparisons examining the same groups in different contexts tend to find the main explanatory factors residing in the receiving society and mostly at the institutional level (the right side of Fig. 2.1).

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