Is social mobility stronger in immigrant families? What factors promote mobility or, on the contrary, social reproduction from one generation to the next? What is the role of grandparents, in addition to that of parents, in intergenerational transmissions?<br /><br />The 3GEN project will provide scientific answers to these questions and many others, using data from the TeO2 survey and qualitative family case studies.
In established countries of destination such as France, assessing the full social consequences of immigration requires the study of both immigrants and their descendants. Indeed, while immigrants (first generation) make up a tenth of the French population, the proportion of people with a foreign background increases to about a third when we include their children and grandchildren (second and third generations). The public discourses on these frequently stigmatized populations tend to rely on preconceptions rather than scientific evidence. Therefore, providing rigorous knowledge on immigrants and their descendants is of the utmost importance in an increasingly diverse French society.<br /><br />French and international research on immigrants and their descendants has proven limited in two main ways. First, despite repeated calls to extend immigration scholarship to the third generation, empirical research has been restricted to the first and second generations, because of a lack of appropriate data. Second, research has mostly relied on comparisons of subpopulations (natives vs. first vs. second generations) composed of unrelated individuals, while understanding the socioeconomic outcomes of immigrants’ descendants requires an analysis of the intergenerational transmission of (dis)advantages occurring within immigrant families.<br /><br />The 3GEN project aims at making original contributions to the study of immigration and social stratification by using unique within-family data on three generations of natives and immigrants in France—the Trajectoires et Origines 2 (TeO2) survey and qualitative family case studies. We set two overarching objectives:<br /><br />1. Describing patterns of social inequality and reproduction in immigrant families, compared to non-immigrant ones, and<br /><br />2. Explaining how they arise and persist.
The primary source of data will be the TeO2 survey (teo.site.ined.fr), designed by the French Institute for Demographic Studies (INED) and the National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE). It combines a unique set of qualities that perfectly suits our research objectives. First, it is a very recent dataset (collected in 2019-2020) providing the most up-to-date evidence. Second, it is a large scale (N=27,200) nationally representative face-to-face survey that oversamples immigrants, children of immigrants and grandchildren of immigrants. Third, generational status is rigorously identified over four generations with information on the respondents’ country of birth, as well as their children’s, their two parents’ and four grandparents’. Fourth, TeO2 provides information on the educational and occupational attainment of grandparents, parents and children of the same family. We are aware of no other survey in the world that combines these features.
The project will also rely on in-depth qualitative interviews conducted with a subsample of second-generation respondents who answered the TeO2 questionnaire and agreed to be re-interviewed. In each family, we will meet with members of at least two—and ideally three—generations: the second-generation “seed” respondent, one of their adult third-generation children, and possibly one of their first-generation parent. Because the main source of empirical data is a robust, large-scale, nationally representative survey, our qualitative fieldwork will intentionally cover a small number of families and collect very rich information on each of them in order to provide a “thick description” (Geertz, 1973) of their social reproduction and mobility. We will focus on two countries of origin: Algeria and Portugal for three main reasons. First, they remain the largest groups of foreign-origin population in France. Second, the history of Algerian and Portuguese immigration to France is long enough to enable an analysis on three generations, including an adult third generation. Third, the comparison between a European immigration flow and a racialized post-colonial African immigration flow is a relevant analytical setup to study the role of ethnoracial discrimination in social mobility processes. These qualitative family monographs will be instrumental in producing a better understanding of the intergenerational social trajectories identified in the quantitative investigation and the social mechanisms underlying them.
In France, people with a foreign background amount to a third of the general population when immigrants, their children and grandchildren are included (first, second and third generations). Yet, French and international research on immigrants and their descendants has proven limited in two main ways. First, despite repeated calls to extend immigration scholarship to the third generation, empirical research has been restricted to the first and second generations. Second, research has mostly relied on comparisons of subpopulations (natives vs. first vs. second generations) composed of unrelated individuals, while understanding the socioeconomic outcomes of immigrants’ descendants requires an analysis of the intergenerational transmission of (dis)advantages occurring within immigrant families.
The 3GEN project aims at overcoming these two limitations and advancing the study of immigration and social stratification by using unique within-family data on three generations of natives and immigrants in France—the Trajectoires et Origines 2 (TeO2) survey and in-depth interviews. Research questions are organized around two overarching objectives: (1) describing patterns of social inequality and reproduction in immigrant families and (2) explaining how they arise and persist. We will make six major contributions.
First, the 3GEN project will provide a systematic assessment of the socioeconomic situation of the third generation in comparison to natives and members of the first and second generations. Relying on full information on parental and grandparental countries of birth—as we will do here—is the only way to paint a reliable picture of the third generation, but is nearly impossible with currently available data worldwide.
Our second contribution will be to analyze the strength of the intergeneration reproduction of educational attainment and occupational status within immigrant families across three generations and determine how it differs from social reproduction within native families. We will thus bridge the gap between mainstream stratification research on multiple generations and the study of immigrant families.
Third, the 3GEN project will expand existing knowledge by analyzing the effect of immigrants’ pre-migration characteristics on the third generation, in addition to the second, and on labor market outcomes, in addition to educational attainment. Thanks to the TeO2 survey, we will be able to use much more precise measures of pre-migration characteristics than previous research.
Fourth, to our knowledge, no prior studies have investigated the links between neighborhood mobility and social mobility across three generations. This project will therefore make a substantial international contribution by investigating whether the role of contextual mobility in intergenerational social mobility varies between immigrant and native families, and identify the neighborhood characteristics that hinder or promote intergenerational mobility.
Fifth, a major novelty of the 3GEN project will be to extend previous research by looking at the effect of intermarriage on the socioeconomic outcomes, not only of children, but also of grandchildren. In addition, we will contribute to the international literature by producing the first study that analyzes the link between intermarriage and social fluidity across multiple generations.
Sixth, this project will contribute to highlighting the role of gender and origins on socioeconomic inequality among immigrants. Adopting an intersectional perspective, we will always consider intra-group heterogeneity to avoid essentializing immigrants and their descendants.
Overall, with its ten initial team members, two recruited postdocs, five work packages over four years, the 3GEN project aims at producing new knowledge that will substantially advance several scientific fields both in France and internationally.
Monsieur Mathieu Ichou (Migrations internationales et minorités)
The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.
MIM Migrations internationales et minorités
Help of the ANR 329,491 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: - 48 Months