Socio-Cultural Determinants of Labour-Market Integration of Immigrants


Theoretical background and objectives

Economic participation of migrants has been a major problem in many European countries for the last decades. There is overwhelming statistical evidence for the problematic labour market status of migrants, but data also show that not all migrant groups are affected to the same extent. Previous studies have revealed that differences in socio-economic integration are strongly related to ethnic origin. However, this research does not allow us to firmly establish to what extent cultural and religious factors are responsible for the differential socio-economic position of ethnic groups. Therefore, we investigate the effects of host-country orientation and cultural difference of migrants on their socio-economic integration in Germany, analysing unemployment and employment durations of male and female migrants, as well as transitions from domestic work to employment for female migrants from Turkey, Former Yugoslavia, Greece, Spain and Italy.

Given the large gap in unemployment and employment rates not only between natives and migrants, but also between groups of migrants, we look at several economic, human capital and cultural factors in order to test whether migrant-specific characteristics can help to explain ethnic group differences in labour market outcomes. The migrant-specific cultural variables we investigate include host-country language proficiency, interethnic contacts, host-country media consumption, and religiosity. In the case of married female migrants, the analysis moreover takes relevant characteristics of their husbands into account, which have not received attention in earlier studies.

Research design and methodology

The German Socio-Economic Panel provides reliable longitudinal data, allowing us to conduct analyses over a period of nearly 20 years (1988-2006). We use duration data to analyse the hazard of labour market status transitions by estimating Cox regression models with a random frailty term to account for unobserved heterogeneity. Individual longitudinal data on employment trajectories of migrants have been combined with labour market context data and relevant human capital and cultural factors. A longitudinal approach is crucial for addressing this research question, since the relationship between socio-cultural factors such as host-country language proficiency and interethnic contacts and labour market integration is likely to be recursive. Our samples cover not only persons born outside Germany, but also their 2nd generation offspring.


The results indicate that although labour market transitions of migrants strongly depend on the labour market context, host-country orientation and religiosity also have a certain impact on the labour market integration of individual migrants, especially on transitions into employment of male migrants and married migrant housewives. However, while for most of our cultural variables we find significant effects on the individual level, these factors do not help to clarify the differences among the different migrant groups, which persist at a similar level even after controlling for labour market, general human capital, as well as cultural variables.

Main content

Ausgewählte Publikationen

Höhne, Jutta/Koopmans, Ruud (2010): Host-Country Cultural Capital and Labour Market Trajectories of Migrants in Germany. The Impact of Host-Country Orientation and Migrant-Specific Human and Social Capital on Labour Market Transitions. WZB Discussion Paper SP IV 2010-701. Berlin: WZB.