Decades of mass immigration has created a diverse demographic of people from a range of ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds on both sides of the Atlantic. But what happens when the second, and even third, generation of immigrants reach adulthood and begin to enter the labour market? A recent study, published in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, considers the challenges and opportunities created by ethnic integration in the 'Wealthy West'.
The authors introduce the study by addressing the reasoning behind their research -- that a growing population of less-advantaged minority backgrounds will increasingly be looking to enter the job market -- and that they may be at a disadvantage to those who have lived within Western social constructs and hierarchies for generations. The authors write: "leadership posts in the political world and stable and well-numerated jobs are dominated by the members of long-established majorities…taking more or less for granted the advantages they hold over immigrant-origin newcomers."
To give evidence to this study, the authors consider the backgrounds of a number of immigrants who have integrated into North American and Western European societies. Focusing particularly on low-status families in four critical European countries -- France, Germany, Great Britain and the Netherlands, and across the Atlantic in the US, they analyse their progress into an array of institutions -- particularly focusing on education and the job market.
By surveying educational statistics of second generations in five countries, the study deduces that "on average, its members finish their educational careers with substantial deficits compared to their counterparts in the native majority population." This conclusion inevitably raises the question of how these people of the second generation will fare in the world of work. The authors deduce that each case of ethnic minorities needs to be considered differently -- part of the study uncovers the effect of intermarriage in the US, for example, which affects the way second generations of immigrant parents fare against the long-established majorities.
It is a pivotal study of its kind -- at once acknowledging the challenges faced by mass immigration, while shedding light on the opportunities that interracial communities can provide.
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