Pre‐ and Post‐Migration Determinants of Socio‐Cultural Integration of African Immigrants in Italy and Spain

AuthorHein Haas,Tineke Fokkema
Published date01 December 2015
Date01 December 2015
Pre- and Post-Migration Determinants
of Socio-Cultural Integration of African
Immigrants in Italy and Spain
Tineke Fokkema* and Hein de Haas**
Using a unique dataset (N=2,014), we examine the pre- and post-migration determi-
nants of socio-cultural integration among f‌irst-generation immigrant groups in southern
Europe: Moroccan and Senegalese migrants in Spain, and Egyptian and Ghanaian
migrants in Italy. The results of the pooled and immigrant-group specif‌ic regression
analyses partly highlight the dominance of pre-migration factors. Immigrants who were
well-educated and well-informed prior to migrating and who migrate at a young age,
achieve higher levels of socio-cultural integration. Going against some hypotheses
found in the literature, female gender and North African origin have a positive effect
on socio-cultural integration as opposed to male gender and sub-Saharan origin. With
regard to post-migration factors, occupational status is the main economic determinant
of socio-cultural integration. Interestingly, being employed as such has no signif‌icant
effect on socio-cultural integration. This suggests that labour market segmentation and
discrimination negatively impact upon socio-cultural integration. The results also sug-
gest that policies allowing immigrants to benef‌it from the human capital they carry
across borders and achieve upward socio-economic mobility are likely to enhance their
socio-cultural integration.
This study aims to assess the pre- and post-migration determinants of socio-cultural integration
among four recent immigrant groups living in southern Europe. There is a long research tradi-
tion on the integration of immigrants into Western societies. Whilst classical theoretical models
of immigrant integration are largely based on research conducted among immigrant groups in
the United States, they have also been applied and tested in northwestern Europe, where, since
the 1960s, countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Bel-
gium have evolved into major settlement countries of new immigrant groups (Givens, 2007; van
Londen, et al., 2007; van Tubergen, Maas, and Flap, 2004). As there are major political and
cultural differences among European societies, one of the most important contributions of
* Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute, the Netherlands.
** International Migration Institute, Department of International Development, Oxford Martin School,
University of Oxford, United Kingdom.
2011 The Authors
International Migration 2011 IOM
International Migration Vol. 53 (6) 2015
Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. ISSN 0020-7985
European researchers to the debate on immigrant integration has been to introduce the national
context as an important determinant of integration. These results have shown signif‌icant differ-
ences in socio-cultural and economic integration of similar immigrant groups (e.g., Turks) in
different European countries, which have been partly attributed to differences in educational
systems, labour markets and integration policies (Crul and Vermeulen, 2003; Doomernik, 1998;
Ersanilli and Koopmans, 2010; Heckmann, et al., 2001; Thomson and Crul, 2007).
Micro-empirical research has yielded valuable insights into the importance of human capital
factors (i.e., education, skills, work experience), as well as age and length of stay in the receiv-
ing countries, in affecting the economic integration of immigrants and their children (Chiswick
and Miller, 2001; Crul and Vermeulen, 2003). In addition, macro level (i.e., social, economic,
cultural and political) characteristics of origin societies as well as partly related individual
migration motives have been increasingly recognized as important determinants of the immi-
grant integration. For instance, on the basis of a comparative study on the economic integra-
tion of immigrants from multiple origin countries in 18 Western countries, van Tubergen,
et al. (2004) concluded that politically motivated immigrants were less favourably selected and
showed a weaker labour market performance than economically motivated immigrants, and
that migrants moving over greater geographical distances have a higher chance of employ-
ment, supposedly because they have more incentives to invest in specif‌ic human capital skills.
They also found evidence corroborating discrimination theories that migrants from predomi-
nantly (supposedly culturally closer) Christian nations and migrants living in countries with
left-wing dominated governments were more likely to be employed. They also concluded that
exclusion of women from labour markets in origin countries tends to be replicated in
destination countries.
The literature distinguishes a number of dimensions of integration processes, and a com-
mon distinction is between structural and socio-cultural integration. Structural integration
pertains to the acquisition of rights and status within the core institutions of the receiving
society, such as employment, housing, education, political and citizenship rights (Heckmann,
2005). Socio-cultural integration refers to the cognitive, behavioural and attitudinal changes
in conformity to the dominant norms of receiving societies (cultural integration or accultura-
tion); social intercourse, friendship, marriage and membership of various organisations (inter-
active integration); and feelings of belonging, expressed in terms of allegiance to ethnic,
regional, local and national identity (identif‌icational integration) (King and Skeldon, 2010).
The majority of previous studies on determinants of immigrant integration have focused
primarily on structural (particularly economic and educational) integration and have increas-
ingly focused on the second generation (Aparicio, 2007; Meurs, et al., 2006; Portes and Hao,
2004; Simon, 2003). Relatively less empirical research has focused on the determinants of
socio-cultural integration of migrants and among recently arrived f‌irst-generation (i.e., for-
eign-born) migrants in particular. An improved understanding of the determinants of socio-
cultural integration is relevant for our understanding of immigrant integration at large. First
of all, although structural and socio-cultural integration into ‘‘mainstream’’ society are often
closely related and tend to reinforce each other (Dagevos, 2001), we can not assume that this
is a one-to-one relationship. This is exemplif‌ied by immigrant or ethnic minority groups such
as the Chinese where economic integration goes along with high maintenance of a strong
group identity and resistance against assimilation. The other way around, immigrant groups
may experience ‘‘downward’’ assimilation into the mainstream (native) lower class cultures
while underachieving in education and in the job market (Portes, 2007).
This question is also relevant in light of increasing concern with political and scholarly
debates on social cohesion, in which a perceived lack of socio-cultural integration amongst
some immigrant groups has received increasing attention. The idea is that immigration and
too much ethnic diversity reduce social solidarity and social capital (Putnam, 2007).
2011 The Authors. International Migration 2011 IOM
4Fokkema and de Haas

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