Boundaries and Health: Perceived Discrimination and Health Inequalities Between Immigrants and Non-Immigrants in Europe.
With a growing share of immigrants in Europe, it is important to understand the causes of health inequalities between immigrants and non-immigrants. Perceptions of discrimination are a major health-relevant stressor in the life course and have been shown to affect various health outcomes. Since immigrants are particularly prone to such experiences, differential exposure to discrimination may be a source of health inequalities. Yet, the receiving countries in Europe differ substantially with regard to modes of immigrant incorporation and the strength of ethnic boundaries between immigrants and non-immigrants. This will structure the interaction between immigrants and the receiving society, making it more or less likely for immigrants to experience discrimination.
This paper addresses the issues by investigating the following two questions: First, can experiences of discrimination explain health inequalities between immigrants and non-immigrants in Europe? Second, how do social and symbolic boundaries between immigrants and non-immigrants in different European countries affect the probability for immigrants to perceive discrimination?
Using multilevel modeling these questions are addressed with data from the European Social Survey (ESS) of the years 2002-2012. The considerable timespan allows assessing how changes in the strength of ethnic boundaries within different European countries are associated with changes in the probability to perceive discrimination – net of stable unobserved country characteristics. Results indicate that perceptions of discrimination are indeed a source of inequalities in self-reported health between immigrants and non-immigrants. Furthermore, immigrants are more likely to report discrimination in countries with strong ethnic boundaries. Thus, differences in the contexts of reception seem to impact the extent of health inequalities between immigrants and non-immigrants in Europe.