The Land of All Opportunity? Migration and Social Mobility in the EU

Monday, 16 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Irina CIORNEI, University of Bern, Switzerland
Ettore RECCHI, Sciences Po, Paris, France
Within the international migration system, European citizens are often regarded as ‘privileged’ migrants due to the generous package of social and political rights they are entitled to once they move to another member state territory (Fox 2005). Yet, existing research shows that intra-EU migration has limited pay-off in terms of social class mobility for Western movers and most likely negative returns for Eastern movers (Recchi 2009 and 2015, ch. 4). This paper inquires into the individual and contextual determinants of intra-generational social mobility in the EU. Social mobility research has insufficiently dealt with the role of contextual factors (at both the country and regional level) in shaping the opportunities for social mobility in Europe, despite observed variation between countries (Breen 2004) and has mostly focused on individual characteristics, such as education, gender and age. In discussing selective social mobility in the EU we propose to test, besides the role of individual determinants, how the economic (GDP per capita, economic globalisation), institutional (welfare typology, union density and type, educational system, migrant integration policies) and political contexts (strength of left/right in the past decade, strength of the radical right, Euroscepticism levels) in the country and region of residence influence the social mobility of EU movers. We use a pooled dataset of the standard LFS and the 2014 LFS ad-hoc survey on the labour market situation of migrants and multi-level regression models to compare ‘stayers’ and ’movers’ intragenerational mobility in the 28 EU member states.


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Recchi, E. (2009) ‘The Social Mobility of Mobile Europeans’, in E. Recchi and A.Favell (eds), Pioneers of European Integration: Citizenship and Mobility in the EU, Cheltenham: Elgar.

Recchi, E. (2015) Mobile Europe. The Theory and Practice of Free Movement in the EU; Basingstoke: Palgrave.