Boundaries against immigrants and their subjectively felt discrimination

Kerstin Duemmler

Nº 2013-06



How to cite this article :

Duemmler, K. (2013). Boundaries against immigrants and their subjectively felt discrimination. FORS Working Paper Series, paper 2013-6. Lausanne: FORS.

Keywords :

boundaries, immigration, discrimination, inequalities, integration policy, Europe

Abstract :

The paper studies the feeling of being discriminated among immigrants and their children in Europe as a multifaceted phenomenon. Their discrimination is brought in relation to (1) negative attitudes towards immigrants within the general public (symbolic boundaries) and (2) societal macro structures that enhance or prohibit the access for immigrants to socioeconomic privileges, scarce resources and public goods (social boundaries). Based on cumulative data from the European Social Survey 2010 and the Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) 2011, a cluster analysis is used to build up a typology among 17 European Countries. The analysis reveals that what accounts for discrimination is the complex interplay of negative attitudes towards immigrants in the general public and macro-structural constraints (legal, socioeconomic, educational, and political) for equal participation. When symbolic and social boundaries diverge, the former have a stronger impact on the feeling among immigrants being discriminated. The results indicate that even those who suffer from discrimination might tend to underestimate the importance of structural and institutional mechanisms leading to discrimination and inequalities. The paper builds a bridge between two rewarding but diverging theoretical frameworks explaining discrimination, i.e. one that focuses on individuals’ negative attitudes towards immigrants and another that concentrates on structural constraints for immigrants’ integration.


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