The Decline of the Migrant Middle-Class in the City: A Comparison of Vienna Five Years before and after the Crisis Year 2008

Monday, 11 July 2016: 14:45
Location: Hörsaal 12 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Bernhard RIEDERER, Vienna Institute of Demography, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Austria
Lena SEEWANN, Department of Sociology, University of Vienna, Austria
There is an ongoing debate in social sciences on the shrinking of middle class since the 1980s, especially in the US. Meanwhile, this debate is quite visible in the public and political discourse of many European countries.

This is the background for the present contribution which discusses determinants of the shrinking of the middle class in the city, using Vienna’s development between 2003 and 2013 as an exemplary case. Vienna is a dynamic city that grows older and younger at the same time as it becomes an increasingly international metropolis highly influenced by migration. In contrast to other parts of Austria, the middle class in Vienna has shrunk considerably during the last decade. However, this decline varies between subgroups of the population, for immigrants were especially affected while the decline was minimal with natives. But why? The present research aims to contribute to a possible answer to exactly this question.

Methodologically, we use quantitative data from a large survey conducted in Vienna five years before and after the crisis year 2008 (8,400 respondents in each wave). Trend analysis, for instance, shows that particularly those born in regions of the former Yugoslavia slipped out of middle class. Surprisingly, second generation immigrants, who are more frequently part of the middle class than their parents, dropped out to the same degree as first generation immigrants did. Moreover, multivariate analyses suggest that the deterioration in average class position of the migrant population cannot be explained by immigrants' educational or professional background characteristics since the average qualification of immigrants was higher in 2013 than in 2003. Overall, determinants of social position seem to be the same for natives as well as immigrants. At least in part, however, the large differences in status positions between natives and immigrants in 2013 are due to language deficits.