Amsterdam Centre for Inequality Studies (AMCIS)

AMCIS Seminar Merlin Schaeffer: Unintended Consequences of Persons of Immigrant Origin’s Status Aspirations

Ethnic Skills Gaps and Perceived Discrimination Across Europe

26Apr2018 15:30 - 17:00


Previous research shows that children of immigrants, the 'second generation', have comparatively high status aspirations that translate into unusually high transition rates to higher education given their level of performance in school.

The particularly high and integration-forstering status aspirations are well-established under the term 'immigrant paradox'. Yet In this talk Schaeffer presents two studies on unintended negative consequences of these high aspirations.

Goals beyond capacities

First, based on data from 14 countries from the Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), Jan Paul Heisig (WZB) and Schaeffer show that the actual skills of second-generation immigrants are lower than those of natives with similar educational qualifications because their high aspirations let them strive for goals that lie beyond their capacities. These ethnic skills gaps are specifically pronounced in open, “choice-driven” education systems with little performance-based tracking.

Make one’s parents proud

Second, Schaeffer links this research on the immigrant paradox to the literature on the so called 'integration paradox', which asks why discrimination remains a salient concern among better-integrated persons of immigrant origin who have achieved higher levels of education and found better-paying jobs. In particular, he uses the EURISLAM survey to argue and show that children of immigrant origin who are not able to realize their (parents) high aspirations tend to feel particularly discriminated against. This second pattern is specifically pronounced among those children of immigrant origin who (strongly) agree that "One of the most important goals in life is to make one’s parents proud”. A robustness replication and falsification test based on the IAB-SOEP Migration Sample reconfirms these results.

About Merlin Schaeffer

Merlin Schaeffer is Associate Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology at the University of Copenhagen. His research interests include the comparative analysis of population dynamics and social stratification, as well as quantitative methodology.

His recent research projects focus on the labor market consequences of ability-qualification mismatches among persons of immigrant origin, and the role of contextual-demographic characteristics for inter-ethnic relations. His recent work has appeared in American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, European Sociological Review, and Social Science Research.

Location: REC-B2.01, 15.30-17.00 (drinks afterwards)

Published by  AISSR