The Uncertainties of Life-Courses Across Borders: Adult Immigrants' Going “Back to School” As Risk Management

Monday, 11 July 2016: 16:15
Location: Hörsaal 46 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Janina SOEHN, Sociological Research Center (SOFI) at Goettingen University, Germany
Immigration has the potential of being a critical life event bringing risk and uncertainty into the ensuing life course in a new country. While most people emigrate—broadly speaking—to seek a better live, many of them are confronted with the risk of having their foreign educational credentials and work experience devalued by potential employers and state institutions alike. That is, their cultural capital (Bourdieu) accumulated across their life course until migration might lose its social value; stable life-course patterns get disrupted. One way to handle this risk specific to immigrants is to re-accumulate cultural capital by going “back to school” in the receiving country. This option is a strategy of risk management on the part of the individual immigrant and depends on her/his resources and motivation. But also structural opportunities matter in terms of educational institutions being accessible at manageable “price” via e.g. government subsidies or ethnic communities giving respective information and support. My contribution on adult immigrants in Germany will first give a brief overview of such structural opportunities and then focus on the questions which individual and structural factors encourage or prevent immigrants from educational participation (focusing on full-time education in a wide sense). I will present statistical results on immigrants who entered Germany as adults in the years 1964 to 2005, based on 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. This quantitative research will be complemented by first results of in-depth interviews with immigrants attending educational institutions and with institutional actors involved in the selection process into such programs 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).