Academic journal article Population

Strangers No More: Immigration and the Challenges of Integration in North America and Western Europe

Academic journal article Population

Strangers No More: Immigration and the Challenges of Integration in North America and Western Europe

Article excerpt

Richard ALBA, Nancy Foner, Strangers No More: Immigration and the Challenges of Integration in North America and Western Europe, 2015, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 336 p.

North America (the United States and Canada) and Western Europe used to differ considerably in matters of immigration and integration but they are now converging. Post-war migrations turned most European countries into receiving societies. The children of the immigrants who arrived then - the second generation - are now adults and the third generation is already in school. Canada made substantial changes to its immigration policies in the 1950s, and in 1965 the United States abolished the entry quotas that had all but put a stop to immigration. However, similarities in temporal dynamics do not mean that immigrants and their children in the various countries have similar trajectories, if only because the political, economic, cultural and social contexts are quite distinct. The question of how fully national differences shape the life paths of immigrants and their descendants is a central one in academic and policy debate.

There have been many trans-Atlantic comparative studies of immigrant and second-generation integration in recent years,(2) but comparison is often impeded by the problem of data comparability. Moreover, country histories and social structures are not the only parameters that differ; the immigrants and ethnic minorities analysed in these studies come from different regions, and group social composition varies. Can Algerians in France really be compared to Turks in Germany, Mexicans in the US or Koreans in Canada? It is these key questions that Richard Alba and Nancy Foner take on in this work, synthesizing several years of data and analyses, some of which have already been published. The originality and power of their book lie not so much in its exploration of the different dimensions of integration, then, as in the authors' extremely fine, rigourous definition of the conditions that govern comparison - and their labour of comparison itself, based on excellent data and substantiated by an immense body of source material.

Leading researchers in the field of immigration and assimilation in the United States, Alba and Foner pioneered trans-Atlantic comparison at a time when American research was still focused almost exclusively on the American case and took little interest in change on the other side. This book draws heavily on the findings of that earlier research. Six countries are compared: the United States and Canada (North America) and France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom (Europe). In all these countries the authors chose to study immigrant groups of different origins but with the shared characteristic of being "low-status": Mexicans (or Hispanics) in the US; North Africans and sub-Saharan Africans in France; Turks in Germany; Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and immigrants from the Caribbean in Great Britain; immigrants from Asia and the Caribbean in Canada; and non-European immigrants (Turks, Moroccans, Surinamese and West Indians) in the Netherlands. The authors' hypothesis here was that socio-economic and political-symbolic similarities due to shared "low" status would allow for apprehending possible differences in integration trajectories despite group-specific migration histories. They observe those trajectories in different areas of social life: socio-economic position, degree of residential segregation, religion, access to elected office, education, identity and mixed unions. The question of integration is reformulated in the introduction to clarify the concepts used: rather than observe assimilation success or failure, the authors will assess whether or not immigrants and their children have as much access as the native majority group to "valuable social resources" and are accepted and recognized as full-fledged members of their settlement society "through participation in major institutions such as the educational and political system and the labor and housing markets" (p. …

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