Let’s stop calling them ‘second generation’ immigrants

It’s common to differentiate between ‘first generation’ immigrants (i.e. people who moved to live in a different country), and ‘second generation’ immigrants (i.e. their descendants). It might look like a systematic (hence scientific?) approach, but it’s not appropriate. Typically, we use the term generation like this: “The bakery is owned and operated by fifth-generation baker Sylvain Chaillout and his parents.” Here we have baker after baker, and supposedly this makes Sylvain Chaillout (the firth-generation baker) more of a baker than any Johnny-come-lately baker. Contrast this with the ‘second generation’ immigrant, a person who is by most people’s definition not an immigrant him or herself, and if anything less of an immigrant than any Johnny-come-lately immigrant who has just arrived.

Image: cc-by-nc-nc open-arms

How to Measure the Integration (of Immigrants)

Just back from the annual IMISCOE conference, I was struck once again how often we talk about (civic) integration (of immigrants) without a clear notion what we actually mean by it. What is more, it’s become a mantra to insist on integration being a two-way process, while this is not a logical necessity. A while ago, I have written up my position in a COMPAS working paper.

I argue that integration should be understood as proximity, and suggest that we can talk about individuals being integrated as well as groups being integrated. An individual or group is considered integrated if it cannot be distinguished in relevant dimensions (the working paper is full of graphs to illustrate the argument). This is equivalent to saying that they are assimilated in relevant dimensions.

It is possible to use standard statistical methods to determine integration: it’s a matter of determining whether two groups differ in relevant dimensions, or whether the position of an individual is within the typical range of values.

By drawing a distinction between individuals and groups, we can have integrated individuals who belong to groups that are not integrated, and groups that are integrated as a whole, while some of their members are not.

Where the working paper ends is the political question: what dimensions are relevant? To answer this question, it would be necessary to map out specific visions of the society we aspire. Clearly there’s no single (objective) answer to that one.