Understanding which factors shape the assimilation of immigrants and refugees using the most recent data
In most European countries, a large majority of recent immigrants have non-European origins. While they are more diverse and visible, they are also more fragile economically. According to the French institute of statistics, the assimilation of many non-European immigrants on the French labor market remain difficult and in 2016, they were three times more likely to be unemployed than natives. Many ethnographic studies also indicate that non-European immigrants are increasingly concentrated in large public housing estates in the suburbs of large metro areas. The combination of a difficult access to the labor market with an increase in spatial segregation might negatively affect the economic assimilation of recent immigrant waves with potentially harmful consequences to second-generation immigrants. The objective of this project is to study how economic and spatial assimilation interact with each other. A better understanding of these interactions is useful to determine how housing and labor market policies could be designed to facilitate economic assimilation. This project exploits original data from the French census of the population that uses Census data back to the 1980s to answer these questions.
Our baseline hypothesis is that the increase in the number of immigrants in public housing in the last decades had ambivalent consequences on segregation that depended strongly on its distribution across neighborhoods. While many public housing estates are large and isolated from the rest of the population, many immigrants live in smaller estates in neighborhoods in which public housing dwellings are only a minority of the housing supply. In addition, the consequences of the increase in the share of immigrants in public housing also depends of the response of inhabitants in private housing to changes in composition of the population in public housing, in particular to an increase in the share of non-European immigrants. If the share of natives decreases in private housing next to social housing estates in response to immigrant inflows, then the diversity of the neighborhood diminishes. On the other hand, segregation will decrease if public housing allows immigrants to live in neighborhoods in which they are relatively rare. We exploitrich and detailed census data that has only been made recently available to test these hypotheses. Our empirical approach consist in comparing changes in the population and economic outcomes for the population in public and private housing with respect to the share of public housing inhabitants in the neighborhood.
Our results indicate that the increase in the number of immigrants in small public housing estates has decreased segregation because it has increased the share of non-European immigrants in neighborhoods in which they are rare in private housing. On the other hand, the increase in the share of immigrants in large public housing estates increased segregation because the share of natives in the population of private housing units next to the project diminished in response.
One important lesson is that the distribution of public housing across neighborhood is quite important for the spatial social mix.
The JASI project is a fundamental research project coordinated by Gregory Verdugo at the Centre d’Économie de la Sorbonne. The project started in March 2016 and operated over a period of 36 months. It has benefited of an ANR grant of 199,000 euros.
In 2015, the number of asylum seekers in the European Union increased by 85% compared to the previous year. Following this inflow, the prospects for the integration or assimilation of these immigrants dominated the news’ headlines. Assimilation embodies many dimensions, but two of them are key, geographical settling and labor market outcomes (economic assimilation). Studying them simultaneously might provide useful lessons on which policies should be adopted in response to the current refugee flows.
Our project investigates how these dimensions relate at both the macro and micro level. At the macro level, the efficiency of public policies is limited by the lack of knowledge of local segregation patterns and how they affect labor market outcomes. To address this gap, we will document how the assimilation varied across cities in France from 1968 to 2012 when the non-European immigration rised dramatically. We will estimate various indicators of labor market and residential assimilation and explore how they interact.
We hypothesize that many differences in segregation patterns across cities mirror differences in public housing quality and quantity. Public housing is likely to grow in the coming years, as many countries will tackle the housing of refugees through substantial constructions. We will investigate whether some characteristics of public housing can be detrimental to assimilation. In addition, we will examine how contemporary public housing policies such as the SRU Laws (loi relative à la solidarité et au renouvellement urbain, 2000 & 2013) have affected segregation levels.
At the micro level, individual panel data will be used to capture the relationship between residential trajectories and economic progress in the assimilation process. We will address the following questions: are immigrants and refugees moving into more ethnically and socio-economically mixed neighborhoods as they climb the economic ladder? Or does segregation persists by origin groups, even when occupational mobility occurs, as the “place stratification” perspective would predict? Finally, because the descendants of immigrants can be identified in the data, we will search for the longer-term implications of these dynamics.
As refugees account for a large share of the current immigration, should we expect their assimilation to differ from the one of economic migrants? Differences might reflect diversity in average skills between refugees and economic migrants or the fact that refugees cannot generally plan or prepare the migration decision. On the other hand, as return migration is not an option for them in contrast to economic migrants, their longer expected duration of stay might encourage learning country specific skills, with favorable consequences on assimilation.
However, in practice, the distinction between economic migrants and refugees may be not so categorical. In case of war the economy of a country collapses and the migration decision is often based on mixed considerations such as economic gains and escaping physical threats. When migration motives are “mixed”, whether large differences between types of migrants should be observed is theoretically unclear. We will assess empirically these issues.
A significant part of our project exploits of a large body of individual level data which were previously not accessible because of confidentiality issues. Access is permitted by a secure distance access system (French acronym CASD) organized by the French statistical institute. The data currently available for France is quite unique in international terms because it is comprehensive, of very high quality, and covers a long period of time. For this reason, our analysis of the French case can cover several dimensions that have not been studied previously.
Monsieur Gregory Verdugo (Centre d'économie de la Sorbonne (CES - UMR8174))
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.
CES-UMR8174 (CNRS DR O/N) Centre d'économie de la Sorbonne (CES - UMR8174)
CES-UMR8174 (CNRS/UP1) Centre d'économie de la Sorbonne (CES - UMR8174)
Help of the ANR 199,800 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: May 2016 - 36 Months