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Success on European Labor Markets: A Cross-national Comparison of Attainment between Immigrant and Majority Populations


  • I am indebted to Martin Bulmer and Laura Hyman, both from the University of Surrey, Great Britain, Stefanie Smoliner from the Centre for Social Innovation, Vienna, Austria, and three anonymous reviewers of IMR for their careful reading and commenting on earlier versions of this article. Florian Pichler is Assistant Professor at the University of Vienna, Austria. He has obtained his PhD in 2006 from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and has held a lectureship in the Sociology department at the University of Surrey until 2010. His current research includes comparative studies on migration, anti-foreign sentiment, cosmopolitanism, social capital, and identities. He has recently published in International Journal of Comparative Sociology, International Sociology, and European Sociological Review.


Typical labor market outcomes vary considerably between majority and migrant populations. Drawing on scholarship from across the social sciences, we assess competing micro- and macro-level explanations of differential occupational attainment among immigrant groups across 28 countries. The analyses of occupational attainment are run separately for first- and second-generation migrants as well as children of mixed marriage and take into account their wider social and cultural background. Results from four rounds of the European Social Survey show that people with a migration background do not necessarily achieve a lower labor market success than the majority. However, human capital, social mobility, and cultural background explain these outcomes to different degrees, suggesting tailored pathways to labor market success for each group of migrants. We also find that occupational attainment varies considerably across countries, although this is hardly attributable to immigration policies. These and other findings are discussed in the light of previous studies on immigrant incorporation.

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