Educational Participation of Adult Immigrants: Risk or Opportunity?

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Hörsaal 46 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Janina SOEHN, Sociological Research Center (SOFI) at Goettingen University, Germany
Adult immigrants who bring along formal and informal qualification from abroad are confronted with the substantial risk that employers and/or state institutions devalue these credentials. The consequence of such devaluation processes are unemployment or under-employment in badly paid jobs. One possible strategy for the individual immigrant is to “re-invest” into cultural capital (Bourdieu) to be accumulated in educational institutions in the receiving country. And research has shown that indeed newly acquired “native” credentials do help—but do not guarantee—immigrants’ later economic advancement. This access to educational institutions—focusing on full-time education in a broad sense—is the subjects of this research project. Given the state of uncertainty and risk of downward mobility immigrants encounter after arrival: which factors prevent them from grapping the opportunity of educational participation and which support them? And, given respective results in qualitative research, among those who do “go back to school”, is the kind of degree they aim for actually above, below or on par with the level of education of their home country? I will present results on immigrants who entered Germany as adults in the years 1964 to 2005, based on my analyses of longitudinal life-course data provided by the nationally representative German Educational Panel Study (NEPS), waves 2009-2013. The analysis focuses on educational participation within the first few years after arrival. Among several factors that can be taken into account of in this new rich data base, the analysis will show the strong, but complex impact of pre-immigration qualifications. This quantitative research will be complemented by first results of in-depth interviews with immigrants currently attending educational institutions (e.g. government-sponsored vocational training for the unemployed) in Germany. This research is part of a three-year project on immigrants’ transnational life courses and their educational opportunities, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).