Cultural Distances and Immigrants' Labour Market Integration

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 16:30
Location: Hörsaal 11 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Marcel DRESSE, GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences, Germany
Andrea MECKEL, GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences, Germany
Martin FRITZ, University of Bonn, Germany
This paper investigates the role of the social and cultural background of immigrants for their successful labour market integration in the host society. Cultural patterns such as religion and language are important factors in explaining discriminatory behaviour against social groups. While religion shapes many aspects of culture, e.g. values or collective rituals, language relates to learning the host country’s language and is particularly relevant when applying for jobs. Both aspects of culture are very visible in social interactions and often used in the formation of prejudices. Thus, the host society may perceive immigrants, who “carry” the culture of the sending country with them, as more or less deviating cultural outsiders. Resulting disadvantages during the job search process are documented, for example, for immigrants who have a family name very different from host society’s language patterns.

This study focusses on cultural distances between immigrants’ religion and language and those of the host country. Referring to balance theory it is hypothesized that a greater cultural distance increases negative attitudes towards immigrants and impedes their labour market integration. We ask: To what extent can differences in the labour market integration of immigrants be attributed to their cultural distances? To answer this question we analyse data from the Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Survey in Four European Countries (Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom). Using structural equation modelling we estimate the effects of language and religion distance as well as important socio-demographic variables such as education and religiousness on employment and compare differences between the four countries. We expect that people with a greater cultural distance are less likely to be employed than people with a smaller distance. The results will help to better understand the causes of immigrants’ employment disadvantages and particularly shed light on the interplay between cultural and social factors.