Chapter 2. France: Intergenerational mobility outcomes of natives with immigrant parents

Cris Beauchemin
Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)

This chapter provides an overview of the intergenerational mobility outcomes of immigrants’ children in France, focusing on both education and labour market outcomes. A large share of the results stem from the Trajectories and Origin Survey (TeO), which was produced by the Institut national d’études démographiques (INED) and the Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques (INSEE). The TeO Survey allows for comparison of the outcomes of natives with immigrant parents with those of natives with native parents. Objective measures of inequalities, for instance in educational trajectories, unemployment and wages, are combined with self-reported measures of discrimination and viewpoints on social mobility. Overall, these results show that upward mobility is not evenly distributed among the offspring of immigrant parents and that gender, in addition to origin, is a major variable to take into account. Those whose parents arrived from outside Europe are generally at a disadvantage when compared with other immigrants’ children. More specifically, the sons of North and sub-Sahara African immigrants repeatedly appear to be in a position of disadvantage when compared to their fathers and sisters.

    

Main findings

  • Native-born children of immigrants represent about 10% of the population living in France. The majority of this heterogeneous group has parents that originate from southern Europe and the Maghreb, and a working class family background.

  • Natives with immigrant parents generally suffer from an early educational disadvantage, i.e. disadvantage that is already manifest in pre-school and primary school. A wealth of evidence has demonstrated that this impediment is largely due to their socio-economic background.

  • Statistical analyses of official data from the Ministry of Education have shown that immigrant parents have high aspirations for their children, indeed higher than those of native-born parents. These are frequently linked to the parents’ hopes of intergenerational social ascension for their offspring.

  • Intergenerational socio-economic mobility of children of immigrants varies significantly by gender and parental origin group. Sons of immigrants from outside Europe experience serious difficulties in school, especially at the lower secondary level. One out of four immigrants’ sons in France remains without a diploma at the end of secondary school. Among the sons of native-born parents, the ratio is one out of ten.

  • The gender gap in educational attainment is larger among immigrants’ children than among children born from French native parents, with girls frequently outperforming boys.

  • Qualitative evidence suggests that the better performance of girls may be partly linked with stereotypes that tend to favour girls with immigrant parents over boys. Overall, natives with immigrant parents report more frequently – by a factor of two to three – than natives with French native parents that they have experienced unfair treatment while they were at school. The differences between the two groups are particularly large for boys.

  • Less than 5% of children with Turkish immigrant parents receive help with homework from their mothers compared to over 22% of children with Algerian immigrant parents and over 30% of children with parents from Sub-Sahara Africa. In contrast, native-born mothers help their children with homework in more than 60% of cases.

  • Maghrebi immigrants’ daughters stand out as displaying an especially large upwards move in educational attainment: the proportion experiencing upward mobility is indeed the highest among women of all origins and higher than that of men with Maghrebi parents.

  • While daughters of immigrants achieve a higher educational level than sons at school, they tend to be more disadvantaged upon entering the labour market.

  • In the labour market, natives with immigrant parents are penalised in various ways. They are unemployed more frequently and when employed, they have lower salaries than natives’ children. Multivariate analyses show that part of these penalties remain after controlling for individual and family characteristics, especially among those of non-European origin and that they are correlated to the self-reported experience of discrimination.

  • Because of their lower starting point, immigrants’ children are more likely to experience intergenerational socio-professional upward mobility than natives’ children. However, they usually climb fewer steps than natives born to natives.

Introduction

In the first decades of the 21st century, about one person out of ten living in France was born to at least one immigrant parent (Borrel and Lhommeau, 2010; Brutel, 2017). Since the 1980s, the integration of this population into French society has been a matter of growing policy and social concern. Classical assimilation theory has held that the socio-economic outcomes of the native offspring of immigrants eventually converge with those of the children of natives. That notion is now questioned. Rather than a unique path of assimilation, consisting in an upward social mobility from immigrants to their offspring, recent studies suggest that the social trajectory of natives with immigrant parents varies by country of origin. This chapter reviews the existing literature to examine the education and employment outcomes of the native-born children of immigrants in France, comparing them to those of both natives’ children and immigrants themselves. The focus is on immigrants’ children in France as an entire group rather than on specific groups, with a twofold objective: first, to identify groups with a socio-economic disadvantage and second, to try to explain why immigrants’ children exhibit different social mobility patterns. Whenever possible, special attention is paid to gender differences in order to discern whether women experience a double disadvantage associated with both gender and origin. The results of recent studies suggest otherwise – that, in many respects, girls and women with origins outside Europe tend to fare better than their male counterparts.

The offspring of immigrants does not form a homogeneous group in France (Table 2.1). The majority of them were born to parents who arrived from southern Europe (Spain, Italy, Portugal) and later from the Maghreb (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia) to participate in post-war reconstruction in the secondary sector (construction, automobile industries, etc.). The great majority of these parents were working class (e.g. 79% among those from Algeria, against 46% among native parents). In the 1970s, the composition of the immigrant population changed and new arrivals started coming from sub-Saharan Africa, Turkey and Southeast Asia. As these groups are much smaller than the groups previously cited, their native-born children are very rarely identified in surveys, and the very few data available do not allow any study of their socio-economic trajectories or outcomes.

Table 2.1. The parental background of children of immigrants
Natives with at least one immigrant parent, aged 18-50 in 2008

 

Parents' background

Parents' occupation

(6) Mean age

 

(1) Country of origin

(2) Mixed parentage

(3) Parents arrived in France before age 10

(4) Manual labourers

(5) Managers or professionals

Algeria

20

33

15

79

2

32

Morocco and Tunisia

15

29

10

71

6

28

Sahelian Africa

2

22

6

76

8

25

Central Africa and Gulf of Guinea

2

45

43

25

26

Southeast Asia

3

42

10

51

16

27

Turkey

2

10

13

68

3

24

Portugal

14

35

19

74

2

29

Spain and Italy

25

67

39

62

5

37

Other EU-27 countries

9

90

28

47

20

36

Other countries

8

61

12

43

17

29

Mainstream population

-

-

-

46

13

35

Note: 1. Children with Algerian parents represent 20% of all children of immigrants aged 18-50 and living in France in 2008; 2. 33% of Algerian offspring have only one immigrant parent; 3. 15% of the Algerian immigrant parents arrived in France before they were 10 years old; 4. by the age of 15, 79% of the children of Algerian immigrants had at least one parent who was manual labourer; 5. by the age of 15, 2% of the children of Algerian immigrant(s) had at least one parent who was a manager or professional; 6. the mean age of Algerian immigrants' children (aged 18-50) was 32.

Source: Trajectories and Origins Survey (TeO), INED-INSEE, 2008. Adapted from Beauchemin, Lhommeau and Simon, 2015. Weighted results.

An exception is the Trajectories and Origin Survey (hereafter TeO), the results of which largely inform this chapter (Box 2.1). The survey shows that this later generation of immigrants’ children has a very different social background, with a larger proportion of parents having a high socio-economic status. For example, 25% of children of immigrants coming from a country on the Gulf of Guinea have parents with a managerial or professional occupation, against 13% in the “mainstream population” (a term defined in Box 2.1). Obviously, among many other characteristics, socio-economic outcomes of the offspring of immigrants depend on their social background. That is why this chapter presents results of multivariate analyses to complement the descriptive figures as often as possible.

Studies of the patterns of intergenerational mobility in the migrant population – the focus here – are in fact very rare in France. This might be partly explained by methodological issues. First, because of data availability, studies tend to compare immigrants’ children with the natives’ children or with immigrants themselves in a cross-sectional perspective, rather than analysing intergenerational mobility properly by comparing children with their actual parents. Second, interpreting social mobility is more complex in the immigrant population than in the native population, because immigrants and their children often experience widely different social contexts. For example, the chapter will show that comparing the education levels of children and parents in France who grew up in very different contexts may prove to be a complex exercise.

Box 2.1. The Trajectories and Origins Survey (TeO)

The TeO survey, produced by the Institut national d’études démographiques (INED) and the Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques (INSEE), aims to describe and analyse the living conditions and social trajectories of individuals in relation to their social origins and their migration history. Around 22 000 individuals born between 1948 and 1990 living in an ordinary household in metropolitan France were interviewed in 2008. For the children of immigrants, the representative scope of the survey was limited to individuals born after 1958.

The sample includes around 8 400 foreign-born immigrants, 8 100 native children of foreign-born immigrants, and 5 100 other French natives (including repatriates, overseas migrants, and their children). Unique methodological efforts were undertaken in this survey to over-sample the children of immigrants and thus to allow for a representative analysis and to distinguish them from children of repatriates – a crucial distinction to avoid bias in the measurement of differences by origin (Meurs, Pailhé, and Simon, 2006; Alba and Silberman, 2002). As the survey focused on discrimination, it also included a subsample of migrants coming from French overseas territories (the départements d’outre-mer or DOM) and a subsample of their children.

In TeO, the term “mainstream population” refers to persons residing in metropolitan France who are neither immigrants nor DOM native-born, children of immigrants or children of the DOM native-born.

The TeO questionnaire explores migration history, describing educational and occupational trajectories, residential histories, housing conditions, family life, and the transmission of languages and religion. On a cross-sectional basis, it examines individuals’ access to goods and services (employment, housing, healthcare, etc.) and the discrimination they may experience in these areas.

More information is available on the TeO website at http://teo.site.ined.fr/. The survey methodology is presented in (Beauchemin, Hamel, and Simon, 2015).

Education

The deep gender gap for the offspring of immigrants in France

For many years the educational outcomes of the children of immigrants remained unknown in France because data allowing them to be identified were not available (Simon, 2003). The first systematic and very influential study came out in 1996. Using a proxy measurement of origin in panel data from the French Ministry of Education, Vallet and Caille (1996) showed that among children who entered upper secondary school in 1989, those with an immigrant background clearly suffered from an early educational disadvantage that could be identified at the primary and lower secondary levels (higher dropout rates, lower academic performance). This group’s disadvantage was confirmed by all subsequent studies, whatever the source of data. Some of them showed that inequalities vary significantly by gender.

That girls perform better at school than boys is not an unusual result (Felouzis, 1993). Rather, what is striking is that the gender gap is much deeper with the children of immigrants than with the mainstream population. Using ministry panel data (cohort entering 6th grade in 1995), Brinbaum and Kiefer (2009) showed that “most high achievers among immigrants’ children are girls, particularly of North African origin” (p. 541). In this group, boys are three times more likely than girls to drop out of secondary school without any diploma, with proportions reaching 28% for boys against 9% for girls (Figure 2.1), while the ratio is below two in the mainstream population (9% for boys and 5% for girls). Results of the TeO Survey confirm a gender gap that is deeper among immigrants’ children. While the proportion without the BEPC diploma (brevet des collèges, obtained in France at the end of lower secondary school) is 15% for men vs. 10% for women in the second generation, it is 8% and 7% respectively in the mainstream population (Table 2.2). TeO results also show striking differences by origin. Notably, the sons of immigrants from Africa and Turkey have the highest share of students that do not graduate at the end of lower secondary school1: between 19% and 27%, compared to “only” 8% in the male mainstream population (Table 2.2). In other terms, among visible minorities, one young man out of four or five lacks the lowest diploma that exists in France. On the other hand, sons and daughters of immigrant(s) of European origin have generally better outcomes than those of non-European origins, and – in some cases – even better than those of the mainstream population (Table 2.2).

Figure 2.1. Share of persons without qualification at the end of secondary school
Natives with two immigrant parents and mainstream population who entered lower secondary school in 1995, percentages
picture

Note: No qualification means no diploma from secondary school – that is to say, neither the BEPC (diploma at the end of lower secondary school) nor any sort of baccalauréat (diploma at the end of upper secondary school), nor vocational qualification (including CAP [certificat d’aptitude professionnelle], BEP [brevet d’études professionnelles] and brevet de technicien).

Source: INSEE, DEPP (Direction de l’Evaluation, de la Prospective et de la Performance), 1995 panel of students entering lower secondary school in 1995 and its follow-ups the survey Famille 1998 and the survey Jeunes 2002. Adapted from Brinbaum and Kieffer, 2009, Table 7b.

Table 2.2. Proportion of natives with immigrant parents who do not hold a secondary school diploma
By gender and origin, aged 18-35 in 2008, percentages

 

% without the BEPC or equivalent (final diploma lower secondary school)

% without any upper secondary diploma

% without the baccalauréat or equivalent (final diploma upper secondary school)

 

Men

Women

Total

Men

Women

Total

Men

Women

Total

Overseas territories

13

2

8

18

10

14

52

30

41

Algeria

20

16

18

32

26

29*

59

49

54

Morocco and Tunisia

19

10

15

32

16

24

55

37

45

Sahelian Africa

19

6

13

29

17

23

60

42

52

Central Africa and Gulf of Guinea

24

11

16

30

18

23

54

31

40

Southeast Asia

14

9

11

18

16

17

42

30

37

Turkey

27

26

27

35

39

37

74

62

69

Portugal

14

7

11

20

11

16

59

36

49

Spain and Italy

10

8

9

18

17

17

48

34

42

Other EU-27 countries

5

7

6

10

18

14

19

25

22

Other countries

9

7

8

14

11

13

35

19

28

Immigrants' children - All origins

15

10

13

24

18

21

52

38

45

Mainstream Population

8

7

8

16

13

14

41

35

38

All 18-35 year-olds

9

8

9

17

13

15

43

35

39

Note: Individuals were born in France and have at least one parent who was born abroad without French citizenship. The second column “% without any upper secondary diploma” includes persons with or without the BEPC.

Source: Trajectories and Origins Survey (TeO), INED-INSEE, 2008. Figures from Tables 1 and 3 of Brinbaum et al., 2015. Weighted results.

In their pioneering analysis, Vallet and Caille (1996) showed that the difficulty for natives with immigrant parents mostly had to do with their social origin. This result is echoed throughout much of the literature, remaining valid in most subsequent quantitative studies in France. However, it is a debated issue whether some inequalities by origin persist with all other things being equal. Results vary depending on the indicator and, obviously, on the list of independent variables that are introduced in the models. According to Vallet and Caille (1996), children with a migration background had, other things being equal, greater results in primary and lower secondary schools than their native peers with no migration origins. Subsequent work with the same data following educational paths up to the end of upper secondary school confirmed, on average and again other things being equal, the net advantage of children with immigrant parents (Brinbaum and Kieffer, 2009).

However, the same data also showed that youths from that group more frequently goes onto vocational tracks, which are the least prestigious, than those of the mainstream population (Brinbaum and Lutz, 2017). PISA results (OECD, 2016) also show that students with a migration background (including immigrants and their offspring) are more likely to have a lower performance in science than children of natives after controlling for socio-economic status (SES), even though the socio-economic background matters relatively more in France than in other OECD countries (OECD, 2016, p. 252). Beyond the general effect of migration, these results obscure important inequalities by specific origin, gender and also education level.

In fact, the social background does not systematically or uniformly explain the overall disadvantage of natives with immigrant parents. In multivariate analyses of the TeO Survey, the remaining effect of origin varies by gender and also by level of education (Table 2.3). At this point it is instructive to look at some of the pivotal moments of educational trajectories in France. At the BEPC level (lower secondary diploma), results show that young males with Turkish and African origins have a significantly higher probability of not obtaining a degree than the French mainstream population whereas girls with parents from Africa show no such difference. Among girls, only those with parents from Turkey have a significantly higher probability of not obtaining a diploma compared to the mainstream population. At the baccalauréat level (upper secondary level), the male ethnic “penalty” disappears, except for those with Turkish parent(s).2 As for women, all things being equal and again with the exception of the Turkish group, they have in fact higher odds of obtaining their diploma than natives’ daughters. Finally, at the university level, almost all differences disappear between immigrants’ native offspring and the mainstream population, for both men and women.

Overall, these results show that gender and ethnic differences diminish at higher educational levels. Such a result raises an important interpretation issue, with policy implications. On one hand, Vallet (1996) interprets the convergence of the school results of the children of immigrants with those of the mainstream population as a sign of “schooling assimilation”. On the other hand, this convergence can also be interpreted in terms of institutional selection. TeO findings also suggest that there are important gender differences: Whilst boys achieve significantly lower results at the BEPC level, girls are indistinguishable at the secondary level and outperforming their peers with French native parents at the university level. What explains these differences in educational achievement among immigrants’ sons and daughters?

Table 2.3. Probabilities of natives with immigrant parents not to obtain a diploma at the end of secondary school
Odds ratios by gender and origin in comparison with the mainstream population, persons aged 18-35 in 2008

 

BEPC or equivalent (final diploma lower secondary school)

Baccalauréat or equivalent (final diploma upper secondary school)

University diploma or equivalent

 

Men

Women

Men

Women

Men

Women

Mainstream population (ref.)

1.0

1.0

1.0

1.0

1.0

1.0

Overseas territories

-

0.5

-

0.6

-

-

Algeria

1.5

-

-

0.7

-

-

Morocco and Tunisia

1.4

-

-

0.5

-

-

Sahelian Africa

-

-

-

0.6

-

-

Central Africa and Gulf of Guinea

2.0

-

-

0.6

-

-

Southeast Asia

-

-

-

-

-

-

Turkey

1.6

2.4

1.7

1.4

-

-

Portugal

-

0.6

-

0.7

0.6

-

Spain and Italy

-

-

-

-

-

-

Other EU-27 countries

-

-

0.4

0.5

-

-

Other countries

-

-

0.4

0.5

-

-

Notes: Each column corresponds to a separate logit model. For each, control variables are the following: parents' education level and socio-economic status; living conditions (financial resources, housing conditions); structure of the family (number of siblings, co-residence with both parents or not); parents' investment in education (private lessons); previous grade repetition; proportion of students in the school with a migration background.

Non-significant results are not shown. Values between 0 and 1 indicate a negative effect of origin on the probability of not obtaining a diploma, i.e. a lower risk of not obtaining a diploma. Values above 1 indicate a positive effect, i.e. a higher risk of not obtaining a diploma. For instance, native women with an immigrant parent or parents from overseas territories are less likely not to obtain the BEPC than their peers from the mainstream population; native men with an immigrant parent or parents from Algeria have a greater risk of not obtaining their BEPC than their peers in the mainstream population.

Source: Trajectories and Origins Survey (TeO), INED-INSEE, 2008. Figures excerpted from Tables 4 and 5 of Brinbaum et al., 2015. Weighted results.

Based on the review of qualitative research conducted in the 2000s, Lorcerie (2011) shows that the French education system carries two distinct and opposite ethno-gender biases. One favours young women with non-European background and especially from Muslim families: they are seen as persons who deserve special attention in order to be protected from the supposed sexism of their family environment. On the other hand, boys of the same origins suffer from negative stereotypes associated with delinquency and deviant behaviours. These observations echo statistical results on perceived unfair treatment in the education system. While men and women in the mainstream population declare fairly similar treatment at school, immigrants’ sons report much more frequently than immigrants’ daughters the feeling that they were treated differently in terms of grading, discipline, the way they were addressed, and the school’s recommendation as to which stream they should follow at the end of lower secondary school (Figure 2.2).

Figure 2.2. Share of students declaring they felt unfairly treated while they were at school
Native-born with immigrant parents and mainstream population, aged between 18 and 35 in 2008
picture

Notes: Natives with immigrant parents were born in France and have at least one parent who was born outside France without French citizenship. 8% of the women born to immigrants declare that they felt unfairly treated in the way they were addressed by their teachers.

Source: Trajectories and Origins Survey (TeO), INED-INSEE, 2008. Figures excerpted from Brinbaum and Primon, 2013. Weighted results.

Differences in the way young men and women are treated are observed not only in schools but also in families. Challenging the common wisdom that girls would be disadvantaged in families of extra-European background, Moguérou and Santelli (2015) have actually shown a reverse pattern of schooling support in immigrant families. While fathers in the mainstream population help their sons with their homework more frequently than their daughters, immigrant fathers, with the sole exception of those from sub-Saharan Africa, tend to help their daughters more than their sons (Table 2.4). Thus the question arises: why do immigrants’ parents invest more in girls’ education? Qualitative research among Maghrebi families show that girls are more controlled than boys, spend more time at home, and (thus) are less distracted from their schoolwork (Moguérou and Santelli, 2015). This is reflected in the fact that immigrants report more conflicts about school with their sons than with their daughters: 27% of both mothers and fathers report such conflicts with their boys, against 13% of the fathers and 15% of the mothers with their girls (Attias-Donfut and Wolff, 2009).

Also, in offering their support, parents would accord priority to the children who have the greater success at school. Once they realise that daughters are more likely to succeed and to fulfil their dream of upward social mobility, they switch attention from boys to girls. This process, especially observed in Maghrebi families, is labelled “the diagonal of the generations” (Delacroix, 2004). It could also reflect the fact that migrant families – at least some of them – see in formal education a way for the girls to escape the role traditionally assigned to women, and a path to financial autonomy and social emancipation. Although this aspiration for greater autonomy for women is usually attributed to the mothers and daughters themselves, the fathers’ involvement suggest that they also contribute to this social change (Table 2.4). This result tends to contradict received wisdom about gender roles in extra-European families, especially in Muslim culture. It calls for further research to better disentangle the role of personal, maternal and paternal aspirations to explain the relative success of immigrants’ daughters.

Table 2.4. Share of children receiving help with homework from their immigrant fathers and mothers
Immigrants' children and mainstream population aged 25-40, from a working class background, percentages

 

 

Mainstream population

Algeria

Morocco and Tunisia

Sub-Saharan Africa

Turkey

All children of immigrants

Help from father

 

36

17

21

20

5

18

 

Sons

37

15

18

22

4

16

 

Daughters

35

18

24

19

6

20

Help from mother

 

66

22

22

36

3

21

 

Sons

64

21

21

34

4

21

 

Daughters

68

22

23

36

2

22

Source: Trajectories and Origins Survey (TeO), INED-INSEE, 2008. Reproduction from Moguérou and Santelli, 2015, Table 1. Weighted results.

Whatever the gender of their child, immigrant parents are less able than other parents to help their children with their homework because of language barriers and other socio-economic handicaps. In the early 1990s, according to data from the French Ministry of Education, 81% of immigrant mothers declared they felt overwhelmed with their children’s homework vs. 51% among native mothers from the working class (Brinbaum, 2013). However, immigrant families use alternative resources to compensate for their own difficulties to monitor and support their children’s formal education. On the one hand, siblings play a great role. In immigrant families, the youngest are more often supported by their elder siblings than is the case among natives with a similar social background (Brinbaum, 2013; Moguérou and Santelli, 2015). On the other hand, immigrant families also use school support services more often, usually provided at no cost by associations. While only 8% of the mainstream population aged 18-35 in 2008 frequented free tutoring classes when they were at school, the average proportion is 19% among natives with immigrant parents, and the proportion rises to 35% among those of Sahelian origin, i.e. mainly from Mali and Senegal (Brinbaum, Moguérou, and Primon, 2015). This high frequentation of tutoring classes certainly reflects the fact that immigrants’ children have more difficulties at school than other children. It also suggests that parents with a migration background are concerned with their children’s school success.

In fact, the question of parental aspirations for their children has sparked a great deal of interest in migration studies in France. In their pioneer work, Vallet and Caille (1996) showed that immigrant families have, other conditions remaining the same, higher aspirations for their offspring in terms of educational achievement than native-born parents. This was observed by later panels following younger generations (Brinbaum and Kieffer, 2009) and confirmed by several studies combining qualitative and quantitative methods that focused particularly on extra-European migrants (Moguérou and Santelli, 2015; Brinbaum and Delcroix, 2016). The rationale for this native-immigrant difference is that the migration project is fuelled by an aspiration for upward social mobility. The transmission from the parents to their children of their family history, especially in terms of intergenerational social ascension, is thought by several authors to be a success factor for the children (Santelli, 2000; Moguérou and Santelli, 2015; Brinbaum and Delcroix, 2016). According to Vallet (1996), the French school system is especially adapted to take on board families’ expectations for two reasons. First, families’ wishes play a major role in the school’s recommendations for upper secondary school streaming. Second, the bifurcation between the academic and vocational tracks happens later than in other countries, such as Germany.3 That grants immigrant families and their children time to adapt to the French school system and adopt more informed strategies.

From one generation to the next: Educational mobility upward or downward?

To what extent do immigrant families’ expectations indeed translate into upward mobility? Are the native children of immigrants more educated than immigrants generally? Are they more educated than their parents? Answering these questions is not as straightforward as might appear; several approaches can be used.

A common but dubious approach consists in comparing education levels of immigrants and the children of immigrants in a cross-sectional perspective, as is done in Table 2.5. In this example, the offspring of immigrants does not actually correspond to the children of the immigrants taken into account in the table. For instance, in the TeO Survey, only one immigrant of ten coming from African countries surrounding the Gulf of Guinea (e.g. Benin, Congo, Ivory Coast) had a child or children who could be included in the sample, i.e. children born in France and over 18 years old at the time of the survey (Beauchemin, Lhommeau, and Simon, 2015). As a result, some groups of native offspring seem to be less educated than immigrants of the same origin (Table 2.5). This should not suggest that there is a downward assimilation trend (Moguérou, Brinbaum, and Primon, 2010). Actually, it instead reflects compositional changes in migration flows. For instance, the very high proportion of individuals with a higher degree among sub-Saharan migrants reflects the fact that African migration has recently become very selective. But these newly arrived and highly educated migrants are not the parents of the offspring of immigrants of the same origins included in the survey.

Table 2.5. Immigrants and immigrants’ offspring in France with a tertiary degree
By gender and origin, not in education at the time of the survey, aged 18-50, percentages

 

Immigrants

Offspring of immigrants

 

Men

Women

Men

Women

Algeria

25

22

18

22

Morocco and Tunisia

27

22

27

34

Sub-Saharan Africa

37

18

26

35

Southeast Asia

31

28

47

49

Turkey

10

9

17

14

Portugal

5

9

20

38

Spain and Italy

23

39

23

30

 

Both groups - All origins

28

29

25

33

Mainstream population

32

37

32

37

Source: Trajectories and Origins Survey (TeO), INED-INSEE, 2008. Figures excerpted from Tables 1 and 4 of (Moguérou, Brinbaum and Primon, 2010). Weighted results.

Table 2.6 offers a more realistic view of intergenerational mobility by comparing the level of education of the native children of immigrants with their actual parents. Here, as expected, immigrants’ children of all groups are significantly more educated than immigrants, with a high correlation between their respective education levels (a coefficient of 0.83 – see Figure 2.3). The pace of this upward educational mobility varies by origin. In groups dotted below the correlation linear regression line, the offspring of immigrants have reached an education level that exceeds what could have been expected considering their parents’ level. Children of immigrants from Southeast Asia exemplify this quick upward mobility. But those from Portugal, Morocco and Tunisia also moved very rapidly along the educational ladder. On average, immigrants’ children of all these groups experienced a quicker educational mobility than the mainstream population. On the other hand, groups dotted above the regression line lag behind: considering the education level of their parents, the children should be more educated. This is the case for the children of only two groups: the least educated group of immigrants (Turks) and the most educated one (Central Africa and Gulf of Guinea). Both cases could raise some concern, although for different reasons. Children of Turkish immigrants socially regress while their parents are already at the bottom of the educational scale, putting them at risk of a longstanding socio-economic exclusion. The downward integration of the sub-Saharan migrants’ children could be interpreted as a strong factor of perceived exclusion in this population and a socio-economic waste for the country.

Table 2.6. Share of immigrants’ children and their two parents holding at least an upper secondary degree
Individuals aged 18-35, not in education at the time of the survey, percentages

 

(a) % of immigrants' children with at least an upper secondary degree

(b) % of immigrants' children with 2 parents who hold an upper secondary degree

Algeria

38

4

Morocco and Tunisia

51

7

Sahelian Africa

47

12

Central Africa and Gulf of Guinea

63

45

Southeast Asia

64

24

Turkey

33

4

Portugal

45

5

Mainstream population

53

21

Notes: 38% of the children of Algerian immigrants have at least an upper secondary degree. And among 4% of them, both the mother and the father have such a degree.

Source: Trajectories and Origins Survey (TeO), INED-INSEE, 2008. (a) Figures excerpted from Tables 1 and 4 of Moguérou et al., 2010. (b) Figures excerpted from Table A of Brinbaum and Primon, 2013. Weighted results.

Figure 2.3. Correlation between the educational attainment of immigrants and their children
Ages 18-35, not in education
picture

Notes: The dotted line indicates the regression coefficient (0.83) between the education levels of immigrants’ children and their two parents. In groups dotted below the regression line, the offspring of immigrants reached an education level that exceeds what could have been expected considering their parents’ level. Groups dotted above the regression lag behind their parents’ education: considering the education level of their parents, the children are expected to be more educated.

Source: Trajectories and Origins Survey (TeO), INED-INSEE, 2008. (a) Figures excerpted from Tables 1 and 4 of Moguérou et al., 2010. (b) Figures excerpted from Table A of Brinbaum and Primon, 2013. Weighted results.

However, upward mobility might not be as pervasive as it seems in Table 2.6. Males and females might in fact experiment with different patterns of educational evolution. Without giving any detail relating to origin, Mainguené (2014) shows for example that upward educational mobility is less frequent among daughters of immigrants than among those of natives (Table 2.7). In any case, for both genders, further research is still needed to analyse the factors explaining upward or downward trajectories at the group and individual level.

Table 2.7. Education levels of native daughters and their mothers
By origin, women aged 18-50 having ended their studies in 2008, percentages

 

Education level of the mother

 

 

No diploma / level inferior to the bac

Bac

Bac + at least 2 years

All

Native women with an immigrant mother

 

 

No diploma / level inferior to the bac*

51

42

17

47

 

Bac*

20

16

23

20

 

Bac* + at least 2 years

29

42

60

33

All

 

100

100

100

100

Women in the mainstream population

 

 

No diploma / level inferior to the bac*

46

43

17

42

 

Bac*

23

13

17

21

 

Bac* + at least 2 years

31

44

66

37

All

 

100

100

100

100

Note: The bac (baccalauréat) is the diploma obtained in France at the end of secondary school. It is a prerequisite to enter university.

Source: Trajectories and Origins Survey (TeO), INED-INSEE, 2008. Excerpted from Mainguené, 2014. Weighted results.

Employment and socio-economic mobility

From school to work: The segmented access to employment of children of immigrants

Unemployment during the first year following completion of initial studies varies notably by gender and origin. The male disadvantage observed at school translates into much higher probabilities to be unemployed among men than among women during the first year after the end of studies (Figure 2.4). Sons of African immigrants experience dramatic levels of unemployment: 50% of those of sub-Saharan descent were unemployed at this point and the proportions were 43% and 41% respectively among those of Algerian and Moroccan-Tunisian descent. In contrast, despite a low level of education, Turkish men are very quick to find employment, as are men of Portuguese origin. The latter even enter the labour market more quickly than men in the mainstream population. This reflects educational strategies oriented towards professional tracks leading to jobs in ethnic niches and family businesses, e.g. construction and trade (Domingues Dos Santos, 2005).

Figure 2.4. Unemployment rates one and seven years after the end of initial studies
Children of immigrants aged 18-50 who declared they were active, i.e. in employment or searching for employment after they finished their studies, percentages
picture

Source: Source: Trajectories and Origins Survey (TeO), INED-INSEE, 2008. Adapted from Table 8 of Brinbaum, Meurs and Primon, 2015. Weighted results.

Women with Turkish parents stand out as displaying a particularly large unemployment gap to their male counterparts. They are the only ones among all groups to experience higher unemployment than men of similar origin (52% against 26%). Their level of unemployment is more than twice the mainstream women’s one (52% against 23%). Immigrants’ daughters are more frequently unemployed than their mainstream counterparts in all groups except those with Portuguese parents. Again, those of African descent appear to be more vulnerable in the labour market.

Differences by origin in terms of unemployment are not only explained by lower educational outcomes. Indeed, multivariate results show that significant differences persist once education, social origin and demographic characteristics are controlled for (Table 2.8)4. In other terms, this result suggests that the educational premium of the daughters of immigrants paradoxically becomes a disadvantage: while they outperform the mainstream population at school (Table 2.3), they are more likely to be unemployed at the end of their studies (Table 2.8). This result supports the hypothesis that daughters of extra-European immigrants experience, upon entry in the labour market, a double discrimination because of both their origin and their gender. In other words, when they transition from the educational system to the labour market, they seem to lose the positive stereotypes they benefited from in the education system (Frickey and Primon, 2010).

Over time, unemployment levels decrease, although following paths that differ by origin and gender (Figure 2.4). Across groups, the reduction of unemployment is much more significant for men than for women. As a result, in each group, the gender gap tends to fade away and, in some groups, even morph into disadvantage (as in European groups). Seven years after the end of their initial studies, sons of immigrants from Africa (including Maghreb) and Asia (including Turkey) keep levels of unemployment that exceed 20%. Multi-variate analyses show that the penalty experienced by sons of Maghrebi students, when compared to the mainstream population seven years after having completed their studies, is not simply due to their education level, their social origin and other individual characteristics (Table 2.8). Differences between women of the same origin and those of the mainstream population are no longer statistically different at this point in time. This finding could suggest a slow integration into the labour market and/or a tendency to withdraw from the labour market, meaning that seven years after the entry in the labour market only the more successful women remain (Meurs, Pailhé, and Simon, 2006; Meurs and Pailhé, 2010). Unfortunately, so far the literature is not clear enough to disentangle these two possible and somehow contradictory processes. There is however some evidence that daughters of extra-European immigrants are more frequently inactive than mainstream women, even though they are much less likely to be inactive than their parents, e.g. 13% vs. 28% among those of Algerian origin, against 8% in the mainstream population (Brinbaum et al., 2015, p. 209).

Table 2.8. Odds ratios of experiencing unemployment
Children of immigrants aged 18-50 who declared they were active, i.e. in employment or searching for employment after they finished their studies, 2005 or before for column (1) and 2002 or before for column (2)

 

(1) Odds of having experienced unemployment during the first year of active life

(2) Odds of having experienced at least one year of unemployment during the first seven years of active life

 

Men

Women

Men

Women

Mainstream population (ref.)

1.0

1.0

1.0

1.0

Overseas territories

1.1

1.7***

0.8

1.7**

Maghreb

1.2*

1.6***

1.5**

1.2

Europe

0.9

1.2

0.9

1.2*

Note: Each column corresponds to a separate logit model. For each, control variables are the following: parents' country of origin, citizenship, age at the time of the survey, education (level and domain), number of siblings, parents' characteristics (education level, socio-economic status), and place of residence at 15. Statistical significance is indicated with *** 10%, ** 5%, and * 1%.

Interpretation: Values between 0 and 1 indicate a negative effect of origin on the probability of experiencing unemployment compared to the mainstream population. Values above 1 indicate a positive effect, i.e. a higher probability of experiencing unemployment compared to the mainstream population.

Source: Trajectories and Origins Survey (TeO), INED-INSEE, 2008. Adapted from Tables 9 and 10 of Brinbaum, Meurs and Primon, 2015.

Unemployment, salaries and discrimination: A cross-sectional comparison of immigrants and the offspring of immigrants

Comparing immigrants’ children with immigrants strikingly confirms the disadvantage of male natives whose parents originate from outside Europe. Among all immigrant groups with African origins, immigrants’ sons are more frequently unemployed than the immigrants themselves, with a notable peak among those of sub-Saharan origin (Figure 2.5). As immigrants in these figures are not necessarily the parents of the children in question, this comparison cannot be strictly interpreted in terms intergenerational mobility. It does however provide striking insights into the socio-economic position of natives with immigrant parents in France.

Figure 2.5. Unemployment among immigrants and native offspring of immigrants
By Gender, active and inactive individuals aged 18-50 in 2008, percentages
picture

Source: Source: Trajectories and Origins Survey (TeO), INED-INSEE, 2008. Figures excerpted from Tables 1 and 3 of Brinbaum, Meurs et Primon, 2015. Weighted results.

Multivariate analyses show that demographics, family situation and social handicaps (education level, social origin, place of residence, health, etc.) together explain most of the high levels of unemployment. But significant differences by origin persist. After controlling for socio-economic factors, sons of Maghrebi immigrants remain more disadvantaged than the immigrants themselves, even though they were born, educated and socialised in France. Before controlling for socioeconomic characteristics, the probability of being unemployed is eleven points higher among immigrants’ sons than in the male mainstream population (19% vs. 8% in Figure 2.5), while the gap is “only” four and eight points for Moroccan-Tunisian and Algerian immigrants respectively. After controlling for socio-economic factors, the disadvantage of Maghrebi immigrants’ sons diminishes but remains: Their probability of being unemployed is still five points higher than the probability of their counterparts of the mainstream population (vs. four points for immigrants, Table 2.9). In contrast, native-born daughters of Maghrebi parents do better than immigrants. All in all, men born in France from Maghrebi parents underperform both men who were born in the Maghreb and daughters of the same origin.5 Although these results do not properly reflect intergenerational mobility, they do suggest that there might be reverse trends for males and females, with the former experiencing a socio-economic downgrading and the latter, on the contrary, experiencing an upgrading.

Table 2.9. Probability to be unemployed
Immigrants, native children of immigrants and mainstream population, active and inactive individuals aged 18-50 in 2008, percentage points

 

Men

Women

Mainstream population (ref.)

0.0

0.0

Immigrants and children of immigrants - Overseas territories

-1.6

+0.1

Immigrants - Maghreb

+4***

+6***

Immigrants - Europe

-2.7

+0.3

Immigrants - Other origins

+2.1

+4***

Children of immigrants - Maghreb

+5***

+4***

Children of immigrants - Europe

-2.2

-2.1

Children of immigrants - Other origins

+2*

+1.5

Notes: Control variables are: age, education level, health, parents (mixed couple, origin), family situation (children, partner in employment), place of residence (region, "sensitive urban zones"), driving licence.

Interpretation: After controlling for socio-demographic background, the average probability of being unemployed is 5 percentage points higher for the male sons of Maghrebi immigrants than for men in the mainstream population.

Source: Trajectories and Origins Survey (TeO), INED-INSEE, 2008. Adapted from Tables 2 and 4 of Brinbaum, Meurs and Primon, 2015. Weighted results.

To what extent are the inequalities experienced in the job quest by the children of immigrants from outside Europe due to discrimination? At first sight, the groups who experience the higher penalties in matters of access to employment are also those who are more likely to declare they suffered from unfair treatment in the labour market. The Maghrebi case is especially telling: Male children of immigrants lead in discrimination declarations, with a level that exceeds declarations of their female counterparts and those of both male and female immigrants of the same origin (Figure 2.6). Such a coincidence at the group level is not sufficient to clearly attribute difficulties in the labour market to employers’ discriminatory practices. To explore the relationship between the two phenomena in more detail, Meurs discussed whether the actual probability of being unemployed is correlated – at the individual level – with the experience of discrimination, as reported by the interviewees (Meurs, 2017; Brinbaum, Meurs and Primon, 2015). Her results show that the people who are usually expected to be in employment (i.e. the people who have all characteristics that usually guarantee access to employment) but who are actually unemployed are also those who declare they suffer from unfair treatment in their search of a job. In other words, there is a strong correlation at the individual level between the objective measure of employment inequalities and subjective measures of discrimination.

Figure 2.6. Self-reported discrimination in the labour market
By gender and origin, immigrants, native-born children of immigrants and mainstream population, active and inactive individuals aged 18-50, percentages
picture

Notes: Percentage of people who answered “yes” to at least one of the following questions, for a motive corresponding to one of those set down by the French law prohibiting discrimination: “During the past five years, were you ever unjustly refused employment? Have you ever been unfairly refused promotion? Been laid off unfairly?”

Source: Trajectories and Origins Survey (TeO), INED-INSEE, 2008. Adapted from Table 5 of (Brinbaum, Meurs and Primon, 2015). Weighted results.

Once in employment, do the offspring of immigrants experience a salary penalty when compared to the mainstream population? Is this potential penalty higher or lower than in their parents’ generation? A first look at Figure 2.7 reveals distinct negative gaps in terms of salaries for most groups of immigrants and immigrants’ native offspring compared to the mainstream population. Yet again, results differ markedly by gender and origin. The salary gap for the female offspring of immigrants is generally narrower than for immigrants themselves, except for those of Turkish origin where immigrants’ daughters experience the largest negative gap with close to 20% lower salaries than the mainstream population. On the other hand, among men, no clear pattern emerges from the comparison between immigrants and their offspring. Sons of immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, Turkey, Spain and Italy have smaller salary gaps than immigrants, while those of other origins have higher gaps (Figure 2.7).

Figure 2.7. Differences in hourly salaries by comparison with the mainstream population
Immigrants and the native-born children of immigrants, percentages
picture

Notes: The hourly salary of sons of Algerian immigrant(s) is inferior by 13% to the hourly salary of men in the mainstream population.

Source: Trajectories and Origins Survey (TeO), INED-INSEE, 2008. Reproduced from Figure 3 in (Brinbaum, Meurs, and Primon, 2015). Weighted results.

To what extent are the differences observed between immigrants and the children of immigrants attributable to compositional effects, i.e. to the fact that these populations have different characteristics? Based on the Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition technique, Table 2.10 shows what part of the salary difference between each group and the mainstream population can be attributed to individual characteristics, employment characteristics, or unexplained factors (Meurs, Lhommeau, and Okba, 2015). The effects of these three sets of characteristics are reviewed below, with the focus on the most vulnerable groups, i.e. men and women of Turkish, sub-Saharan and Maghrebi origin. First, in all groups, occupational segregation plays a major role in explaining wage gaps. That is to say, men and women from both groups – immigrants and the children of immigrants – are concentrated in less favourable jobs, a finding in line with results from previous studies (Aeberhardt and Pouget, 2010; Aeberhardt et al., 2010). Second, the effect of personal characteristics (age, educational attainment, place of residence, etc.) is less homogenous across groups. They have virtually no effect on male immigrants, but explain a significant part of the salary gap for other groups (male children of immigrants, female immigrants, and women with immigrant parents). Finally, once compositional effects are taken into account, differences with the mainstream population shrink among women,6 but unexplained wage discrepancies remain significant among men. Other things being equal, immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa, the Maghreb and Turkey still earn around 6% less than the mainstream population. The discrepancy amounts to 3% for the children of immigrants.7

Table 2.10. Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition of estimated hourly salary differences for immigrants and the children of immigrants by comparison with the mainstream population
Individuals in salaried employment aged 18-50

 

Men

Women

 

Observed difference

Difference explained by…

Unexplained difference

Observed difference

Difference explained by…

Unexplained difference

individual characteristics

job characteristics

individual characteristics

job characteristics

Immigrants - Maghreb

0.109

-0.002

0.054***

0.057***

0.123

0.024***

0.09***

0.009***

Immigrants - Europe (EU 27)

-0.018

-0.008***

0.032***

-0.041***

-0.032

-0.005***

0.023***

-0.05***

Immigrants - Other origins

0.106

-0.022***

0.072***

0.056***

0.096

0.015***

0.083***

-0.001

including sub-Saharan Africa and Turkey

0.164

-0.003*

0.106***

0.061***

0.161

0.036***

0.112***

0.013***

Children of immigrants - Maghreb

0.125

0.026***

0.062***

0.037***

0.041

0.017***

0.028***

-0.004

Children of immigrants - Europe (EU 27)

0.02

0.002*

0.014***

0.004**

0.003

0.003***

0.01***

-0.01***

Children of immigrants - Other origins

0.082

0.025***

0.026***

0.032***

0.008

0.015***

0.015***

-0.023***

including sub-Saharan Africa and Turkey

0.13

0.04***

0.063***

0.027***

0.062

0.039***

0.05***

-0.027***

Both groups - Overseas territories

0.096

-0.007***

0.04***

0.063***

0.008

-0.011***

0.009

0.01***

Notes: Separate models for men and women. For each model, individual characteristics include age, educational attainment, place of residence, professional experience, health, and – for immigrants only – age upon arrival in France. Employment characteristics include duration in current employment, public vs. private sector, number of employees and current socio-professional job category.

Without controlling for observed differences, the sons of Maghrebi immigrants receive an hourly salary inferior by 12.5% to the hourly salary of men born to French natives (the mainstream population being the reference group). Employment characteristics explain 6.2 points of the observed difference. Individual characteristics account for 2.6 points of the gap. Finally, 3.7 points of the difference remain unexplained by individual or employment characteristics. Statistical significance is indicated using * 10%, ** 5%, and *** 1%.

Source: Trajectories and Origins Survey (TeO), INED-INSEE, 2008. Adapted from Table 3 of Meurs, Lhommeau and Okba, 2015.

How can this significant yet unexplained salary “penalty” observed for men be interpreted? To what extent can it be attributed to employers’ discriminatory attitudes or unobserved heterogeneity? Following the same method as the one used to study the role of discrimination in access to employment, Meurs (2015) analysed, at the individual level, the relationship between observed salary gaps and self-reported declarations of unfair treatment.8 She first estimated the wage that each individual would receive if they were paid as much as an individual of the mainstream population with the same characteristics. The difference between this theoretical wage and the actual wage of each individual was then used as an independent variable in a logistic regression explaining the declaration of unfair treatment, controlling for all variables used to estimate the theoretical salary. In other words, the analysis allows measuring, other things being equal, the extent to which the difference between the theoretical and actual salaries is explained by the self-reported experience of discrimination. Results show that the odds of declaring unfair treatment increase significantly with the gap between the theoretical and actual wages. This shows that self-reported discrimination is anchored in observed wage inequalities. It also suggests that the unexplained wage penalty can – at least partially – be interpreted in terms of discrimination.

Intergenerational socio-economic mobility

Although previous results compare immigrants and the children of immigrants, they do not properly address the question whether sons and daughters of immigrants experienced a downward or upward socio-economic mobility compared with their own parents. As already discussed in the section on education, that type of comparison is not easy to carry out. At least two methodological limitations need to be mentioned concerning social mobility. The first is that the socio-economic statuses of two successive generations (the children and their parents) are not really comparable because of the changes in the labour market structures. Typically, being a manual worker around 2010 obviously does not have the same meaning, in terms of social position, as it did in the early 1960s. The second limitation relates to the participation of women in the labour market. Among immigrant mothers, especially those whose origins are outside Europe, inactivity was and is still frequent,9 which hinders the possibility of comparing the socio-economic status of daughters with their immigrant mothers. Three approaches have been used to address these limitations in measuring social mobility.

Mainguené’s approach (2014) consisted in limiting the analyses to immigrants’ daughters whose mothers were active. As this approach significantly reduces the population size, results cannot be disaggregated by origin. They do however offer a first insight into the social mobility of the daughters of immigrants. The diagonal boxes in Table 2.11 show the proportion of daughters who maintained their mothers’ social position. Above the diagonals are those who experienced a downward mobility; below those who experienced an upward mobility. The matrix reveals mixed results. On one hand, remaining in the low qualification level category is more common among the daughters of immigrants than among the daughters of natives (17% vs. 12%). On the other hand, upward mobility happens more frequently among immigrants’ daughters (a total of 46% vs. 37%), although the type of mobility varies by origin. While moving to the highly qualified category from the medium category is less frequent among the daughters of immigrants (7% vs. 10%), moving from low to medium happens more often among immigrants’ daughters than among daughters of native French (35% vs. 23%). This probably reflects the fact that immigrant mothers are more concentrated in the lower qualified group, making it more likely for their daughters to move out from this category. Moving upwardly is less likely when the starting point is already a higher position, which is more common among natives born to natives. In any case, the major drawback of this approach comparing daughters and their mothers is that it says nothing about the social mobility of women who had an inactive mother. And, as inactivity is quite common in groups originating from outside Europe, these aggregated results actually reveal very little about the social mobility of daughters of extra-European immigrants.

Table 2.11. Socio-professional category of mothers and daughters
By origin, active women aged 18-50 who ended their studies in 2008 and whose mothers were active when they were 15, percentages

Socio-economic status of the mother

Low

Medium

High

All

Daughters of immigrants

 

 

 

 

 

 

Low

17

6

1

24

 

Medium

35

28

1

64

 

High

4

7

1

12

All

56

41

3

100

Daughters of natives

 

 

Low

12

9

-

21

 

Medium

23

38

3

64

 

High

4

10

1

15

All

39

57

4

100

Notes: Numbers in bold indicate cases of social immobility. Above diagonal boxes: downward mobility. Below diagonal boxes: upward mobility. For example, 4% of daughters whose immigrant mothers had a low socio-economic status but achieved themselves a high socio-economic status.

Source: Trajectories and Origins Survey (TeO), INED-INSEE, 2008. Excerpted from Mainguené, 2014. Weighted results.

An alternative approach was adopted by Okba (2012): as a reference point to measure social mobility, he used the fathers’ socio-economic status for both immigrants’ sons and daughters. This choice allowed him, to a certain extent, to disaggregate results by origin (Figure 2.8). The results both confirm and expand what had been observed for mothers and daughters by Maiguené (2014). First, upward mobility is generally higher among children of immigrants than in the mainstream population; that trend is observed for both women and men, whatever the origin. Again, this might be explained by the lower position of immigrant fathers on the social ladder: starting from the bottom, it is easier to move upward. Second, the immigrants’ children’s social mobility needs to be tempered, as it is largely due to changes within the employee/worker category. Social moves to higher socio-professional categories are proportionally rarer than in the mainstream population. In other words, natives with immigrant parents do progress on the social ladder, but climb fewer steps than natives born to natives. Third, looking at gender differences, the relative success of Maghrebi immigrants’ daughters is especially striking: the proportion experiencing upward mobility is higher than those of all other women groups and that of men of the same origin. Conversely, results point to the social disadvantage of sons of Maghrebi immigrants, who have lower outcomes than their sisters and European counterparts.

Okba analysed the factors explaining upward mobility. He showed that the fathers’ country of origin has virtually no effect on the probability of upward movement, as such a social move is essentially determined by socio-demographic variables. The probability of moving upward increases with the father’s socio-economic status, the mother’s activity status, and the person’s own education level and age. They are reduced for individuals who experienced an interruption in their career and for women. As interactions were not tested between origin and other variables, it is not known to what extent the factors facilitating or hindering upward mobility vary by origin among the children of immigrants.

Figure 2.8. Socio-professional upward mobility of native-born children of immigrants
By gender and father’s origin, ages 35-50, percentages
picture

Notes: - The figure includes only individuals in salaried employment or with previous work experience at the time of the survey. - Socio-professional mobility is measured by comparing the fathers' socio-professional category when their children were 15 years old with the socio-professional category of their children in their most recent job. Changes measured used the following categories: unqualified employee/worker, qualified employee/worker, intermediate profession, managerial and professional occupation. - Southern Europe includes Portugal, Spain and Italy.

Interpretation: In their last employment, 36% of the children of immigrants had experienced upward social mobility, i.e. they were employed in a more qualified job than their fathers. 12% experienced upward mobility within the employee/worker category (from an unqualified to a qualified job), while 24% had moved upwardly from and to any of the other categories (e.g. from the unqualified employee/worker category to intermediate category, or from this latter category to a managerial occupation, etc.).

Source: Trajectories and Origins Survey (TeO), INED-INSEE, 2008. Adapted from Table 8 of Meurs, Primon and Okba, 2015. Weighted results.

The two approaches (Mainguené’s and Okba’s) described above have two limitations in common. The first is that they measure social mobility through changes in overly large categories. More precise measures of the socio-economic status, such as the International Socio-Economic Index (ISEI), could temper the conclusions. The second is that the intergenerational mobility is measured without taking into account the fact that parents and children do not share the same labour market or socio-economic contexts. Taking into account their relative position could also modify the results, as was observed above for education. (Attias-Donfut and Wolff, 2009) explored another approach, consisting in analysing subjective answers given by parents about their children’s social mobility in a survey exclusively dedicated to immigrants aged 45-70 (Table 2.12). The pervasive view of immigrants in 2003 was that their children experienced social ascension by comparison with themselves (59% for sons and 61% for daughters), a view that was shared by only a third of the native population ten years earlier, according to a previous survey that included this population (Attias-Donfut and Wolff, 2009, 264). This view depends on parents’ geographic and social origin. By definition, the children who have parents with the highest positions cannot experience upward mobility. This is probably why, for instance, only a third of the sons of Northern European origin were considered as having socially progressed, with another third being viewed as occupying a similar social position. Conversely, immigrants with lower social positions have a more optimistic view of their children’s social mobility. Social mobility again appears as a gendered phenomenon. Except among those of Turkish origin, immigrants’ daughters are less frequently involved in a downward social trajectory than sons. This disadvantage men have in relation to women is especially salient among those originating from the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa. Importantly, the same handicap persists in multivariate analyses that control for personal and parents characteristics (Attias-Donfut and Wolff, 2009, 268).

Table 2.12. Parents’ view of their children’s social mobility
Immigrants' children, aged 25 and over, percentages

 

Sons

Daughters

 

Upward

Stable

Down- ward

Don't know

Upward

Stable

Down- ward

Don't know

Northern Europe

36

37

20

8

35

43

16

6

Eastern Europe

62

22

10

5

68

18

10

4

Southern Europe

61

26

8

5

60

27

8

5

Maghreb

60

21

12

7

65

21

9

5

Sub-Saharan Africa

60

16

12

12

62

21

9

8

America

54

20

15

11

53

38

2

6

Turkey and Middle East

64

26

8

1

68

21

10

1

Asia

62

24

8

6

60

25

8

7

All

59

24

11

6

61

25

9

5

Notes: 36% of the sons of immigrants from Northern Europe are viewed by their parents as having experienced upward mobility, 37% are perceived as being in a similar social position, 20% are seen as having experienced a social decline, and 8% are not categorised by their parents.

Source: CNAV PRI (Caisse nationale de l'assurance vieillesse / passage à la retraite des immigrés) 2003, adapted from Table 5 of Attias-Donfut and Wolff, 2009.

Summary and conclusion

The results presented in this chapter demonstrate that upward mobility is not evenly distributed among the children of immigrants. In addition to origin, gender is a crucial variable to take into account. Merging figures for men and women in the analyses obscures the fact that they actually have opposite outcomes, especially among children of immigrants from outside Europe. Among men, those of African descent (either from the Maghreb or sub-Saharan Africa) repeatedly appear in a position of social inferiority when compared to both their fathers and sisters. Their initial disadvantage at school is massive, with about a third lacking a secondary diploma, which hampers their opportunities for socio-economic integration for the rest of their life. This has lasting negative economic consequences for the country (for instance, in terms of unemployment), as well as social consequences as these inequalities foster feelings of alienation. These results call for significant public efforts, on one hand, to reduce inequalities in the early education stages to avoid repeating these inequalities in the future and, on the other hand, to foster “catch up” education programmes to offer socio-economic integration opportunities to those who already dropped out of school without credentials.

In fact, a “gender reversal” can be observed from immigrants to the native children of immigrants. Among immigrants, women are disadvantaged in all respects. But among the children of immigrants, women are on average better off than men. School, especially at the early secondary level, is the key moment when this reversal happens. Daughters of immigrants benefit from positive stereotypes in the education system. Upon entry into the labour market, this advantage disappears: they lag behind in finding a job. More research is needed to better understand this unexpected disadvantage, even though, once in employment, they are again less disadvantaged than their male counterparts, at least in terms of salaries.

This intergenerational gender reversal does not apply to sons and daughters of Turkish migrants. While the results suggest that gender and ethnic differences between the mainstream population and the children of immigrants diminish with the diploma level, children of Turkish immigrants (both sons and daughters) are the only ones with higher odds than the mainstream population of not obtaining the final diploma of secondary school (the baccalauréat). This school disadvantage translates into a significant handicap in the labour market for women, who have extraordinarily high levels of unemployment and whose salaries are even inferior to those of Turkish immigrant women. Despite a similar educational handicap, sons of Turkish immigrants do better in the labour market, both compared to women of same origin and to men of other groups. Although more research is needed to better understand their economic integration, some evidence suggests that their relative success could be linked with involvement in family businesses. This would protect them from discrimination in the labour market.

For the rest, discrimination – including the perception thereof – appears to be a major factor behind the difficulties experienced by native male children of immigrants from outside Europe. At school and work, they report unfair treatment much more often than do women of similar origins. Detailed analyses have shown that, in matters of both unemployment and salaries, there is a high correlation between these declarations and the objective situation of the persons. Qualitative research has further highlighted frequent instances of discrimination and negative stereotyping at school, particularly affecting native males with origins outside Europe (Lorcerie, 2011). This can reinforce feelings of alienation.

Diagnosing patterns of socio-economic mobility in migrant families is not an easy task. In existing studies, more often than not, immigrants’ children are compared to the children natives and/or immigrants in a cross-sectional perspective. These analyses yield important insights on the social position of the offspring of immigrants, but say little about intergenerational mobility per se. Few studies have tackled this specific subject, and most that have do not analyse in detail the mechanisms through which immigrants’ children progress (or not) on the social ladder. More research is needed to identify the barriers and opportunities for social mobility; this goes beyond merely understanding how and why an initial parental disadvantage is transmitted to the children. The results presented here further call for research to help understand how and why for some groups of immigrants, the socio-economic gaps faced by their children are even larger than those faced by the immigrant parents themselves. This becomes evident, for example, in the salary gaps experienced by the children of Turkish immigrants. Success stories also need to be studied, in order to identify the factors that encourage upward mobility.

This chapter shows that taking into account the heterogeneity of the native children of immigrants is crucial to producing an accurate social portrait. Men and women on one hand, and children of European and non-European immigrants on the other hand, often have opposite outcomes. These categories are minimal distinctions to be made in further analyses. They are especially relevant in understanding the role of discrimination in the social trajectories of the children of immigrants. To that end, collecting data allowing identification of whether individuals are or are not the children of immigrants is crucial. Furthermore, as the next generation of native children with origins outside Europe becomes a significant group in France, intergenerational mobility studies could be extended to these grandchildren of immigrants. In cases where the children of immigrants experienced downward social mobility compared to their parents, is there a rebound at the next generation? Or are certain groups and individuals on a trajectory of enduring marginalisation? Following up on the results presented in this chapter is the objective of the next round of the Trajectories and Origins Survey, due for data collection in 2019-2020.

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Notes

← 1. This is not equivalent to a dropout rate as students who do not obtain the BEPC are allowed to pass in upper secondary schools.

← 2. This Turkish exception may be due to an early orientation towards vocational tracks, with students finding a job in the wake of their internship and dropping out of secondary school without passing the baccalauréat.

← 3. In France, as a result of the “college unique” policy, the school’s orientation of the student toward a vocational track can begin at the end of the lower secondary level.

← 4. Results presented in this table allow solely to see whether inequalities remain after controlling for the social background of immigrants’ children. Unfortunately, the odds ratios of the independent variables are not published. In further analyses, it would be interesting to introduce interactions between origin and social background. That would help to understand whether, for instance, having less educated parents places the children of immigrants from outside Europe at a disadvantage not shared by the offspring of native-born parents.

← 5. It is not known whether differences between immigrant men from the Maghreb and the native French daughters of Maghrebi immigrants are statistically significant.

← 6. The female offspring of immigrants even receive more than the mainstream population. The negative unexplained difference observed among them means that they tend to receive salaries that are higher than what they would usually be expected to receive considering their characteristics. This can be explained by the protective role of the SMIC (i.e. the official minimum salary in France).

← 7. Note that these gaps remain when selection into employment is taken into account (i.e. when controlling for the fact that individuals in employment may have characteristics that differ from those who are not employed). For detailed results, see Meurs et al., 2015.

← 8. The two questions asked of respondents were: “During the past five years, have you ever been unfairly refused promotion? Been laid off unfairly?”

← 9. For instance, according to TeO data, only 23% of the daughters of Maghrebi immigrants had an active mother when they were 15 years old; the proportion was 51% among all immigrant mothers and 62% in the mainstream population (Mainguené 2014).