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Analysis and Conclusions

Rinus Penninx and Blanca Garcés-Mascareñas


This state-of-the-art volume taking stock of and presenting existing research on integration processes and policies in Europe was triggered by European Union (EU)-level policymaking on integration. A 2011 European Commission policy document proposes that integration policies should involve not only immigrants and the society of settlement but also actors in immigrants' countries of origin (EC 2011). Compared to the Commission's earlier definition of integration (EC 2003), this constituted a shift from a two-way to a three-way process approach. The current volume has reformulated the EU's policy shift into a broader question for academia and integration research: What does research have to say about (the study of) integration processes and, in particular, about the relevance of actors in origin countries for integration? What does the existing literature say about integration policies in Europe and use of the concept of integration in policy formulation and practice? Does the proposal to include actors in countries of origin as important players in integration policies find legitimation in empirical research?

With the purpose of answering these questions, we asked experts in the relevant subfields to write state-of-the-art chapters. Chapter 2, by Penninx and GarcésMascareñas, examined development of the concept of integration in the academic study of settlement processes of migrants and in policies. Chapter 3, by Van Mol and De Valk, analysed changes in migration patterns and characteristics of immigrants as a potential explanatory factor for changes in integration processes and policies.

Chapters 4, 5 and 6 covered basic aspects of policy development: Doomernik and Bruquetas-Callejo wrote on national policies of EU countries, Scholten and Penninx analysed the multilevel governance of migration and integration, and Mügge and Van der Haar scrutinized the categorization and target groups of policies. The following Chaps. 7, 8, 9 and 10 shifted the focus to migrants' countries of origin and the relevance of these for immigrants' integration: Mügge took stock of the transnational activities of individual migrants and the relation of these to integration; Van Ewijk and Nijenhuis reviewed the literature on transnational–local relations and the role of migrant organizations, as well as the relation of these with integration; and Østergaard-Nielsen outlined how governments of countries of origin relate to their citizens abroad and what this could potentially mean for their integration. Finally, King and Collyer examined the migration–development nexus in search of a possible relation between it and immigrant integration.

How do these elements of analysis come together to answer the questions posed above? This final chapter first considers how the concept of integration has been (and can be) used as an analytical tool in academic research on integration processes of immigrants. Second, it reviews the way integration as a concept has been used in policies at various levels. This leads into an analysis of how integration is perceived by actors at different levels in origin countries. These steps enable us to draw some final conclusions on the European Commission's proposal to move from a two-way to a three-way process approach.

The Concept of Integration

Integration is a rather specific post-war European term. As a field of research, the study of settlement processes of immigrants in Europe has an ambivalent relation with an earlier tradition of settlement studies: that in the USA. Europe borrowed from North America the essential framing of such studies, as how immigrants as newcomers find their place in the society in which they settle. Yet, the concept of assimilation that was developed by US researchers was rejected in Europe as lopsided in two respects: (i) in seeing the process of settlement as primarily one in which newcomers undergo a progression of cultural change and (ii) in seeing settlement as a linear process towards assimilation in mainstream society.

The concept of integration as it developed in European research during the past half century remained focused on the settlement of newcomers, but became more complex and rich. First, research on integration looked systematically at both the society of settlement and at immigrants as the two parties involved in the settlement process, often recognizing a dominance of the receiving society in this process. Second, research spelled out several dimensions of the integration process: the legal/political, the socioeconomic, and the cultural/religious.

The legal/political dimension of integration was exhaustively studied in two main respects. First, studies explored the legal status attributed by admission policies and the consequences of that status (or the absence thereof) for integration.

Second, immigrants' participation in politics (or the lack of such participation) was investigated in the broadest sense, with this second strand of research often labelled citizenship studies.

In the socio economic dimension, research looked at the position of immigrants in key fields of societal stratification: work and income, education, housing, and health. Where the benchmarks were natives or non-immigrants, these studies were called equality studies. If they were longitudinal within a group, they were labelled (intergenerational) social mobility studies.

In the cultural/religious dimension, study of the cultural and religious adaptation of newcomers has long been central. Nowadays, however, the perception and acceptance of newcomers by natives has become increasingly important. Immigrants' culture and religion are, furthermore, studied as collective phenomena, as is the political and societal organization of cultural and religious diversity and its recognition in the society of settlement. This branch of research has been incorporated under equity studies.

The study of integration has also gained by distinguishing between levels at which integration processes take place and by studying the different mechanisms involved. Firstly, there is the micro-level of individual immigrants and their households and kin, and the comparable micro-level of native individuals in the society of settlement, with research examining how they perceive and react to one another. Secondly, there is the level of collectivities of both immigrant groups and natives and how they relate to each other. Thirdly, there is the level of institutions, both general institutions relevant to all residents and specific ones of and for immigrants.

Chapter 2 traced the development of the concept of integration as a rich analytical tool with great potential, particularly when it is used in combination with systematic comparisons. This tool can also serve to map and look critically at integration research in Europe. In a review of the state of the art of European research on integration, Penninx et al. (2006) observe that most studies are strongly embedded in national contexts. Furthermore, they note that European research on migration and integration has been fragmented in three ways: a lack of comparative research, a lack of cooperation among disciplines, and a lack of integration of the different levels at which phenomena are studied.

In recent years, significantly more international comparative research has been accomplished, often financed by the EU, remedying to some extent the methodological nationalism (Wimmer & Glick Schiller 2002) that went hand-in-hand with a strong embeddedness of research in the national (policy) arena. Such comparisons may also help to overcome space-based forms of fragmentation by including more than one spatial unit (e.g., a borough, city, region, nation state, or supra-national or international arena). While the nation state was dominant in research from the beginning, there is now a growing body of research on both the local and the international and supra-national levels. The relations between these levels and the complex ways in which they influence each other, however, have yet to be explored.

At the same time, fragmentation continues. Divisions are still strong along disciplinary lines, with particularly legal and economic studies remaining largely autonomous and employing self-contained approaches. Furthermore, new fragmentation has arisen, for example, in specializations within the three dimensions of integration sketched above, such as citizenship studies, equality and social mobility studies, racism and xenophobia studies, and equity studies. Such specializations do have merit, as they deepen insights on the specific dimension concerned; but they may also bypass the larger integration picture. Holistic studies that take all three dimensions into account and look at interrelations between them are rare, though much needed for further theoretical development.

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