Intergenerational Social Mobility Among the Second Generation in Western Europe: Between Socioeconomic Assimilation and Disadvantage


Are Western European countries successfully incorporating their immigrant populations? We approach immigrant incorporation as a process of intergenerational social mobility and argue that mobility trajectories are uniquely suited to gauge the influence of immigrant origins on life chances. We compare trajectories of absolute intergenerational mobility among second generation and native populations using nationally representative data in seven European countries and report two major findings. First, we document a master trend of native–immigrant similarity in mobility trajectories, suggesting that the destiny of the second generation — like that of their native counterpart — is primarily determined by parental social class rather than immigrant background per se. Secondly, disaggregating results by regional origins reveals heterogeneous mobility outcomes. On one hand, certain origin groups are at heightened risks of stagnation in the service class when originating from there and face some disadvantage in attaining the top social class in adulthood when originating from lower classes. On the other hand, we observe a pattern of second-generation advantage, whereby certain origin groups are more likely to experience some degree of upward mobility. Altogether, these results suggest that immigrant origins per se do not strongly constrain the socioeconomic destiny of the second generation in Western Europe.

Sociological Science