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Assimilation and the Second Generation in Europe and America: Blending and Segregating Social Dynamics Between Immigrants and Natives


The diversity induced by migration flows to Western societies has continued to generate scholarly attention, and a sizable new body of work on immigrant incorporation has been produced in the past ten years. We review recent work in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain. Despite differences between the United States as a settler society and Western Europe as a composite of classic nation states, we find an overall pattern of intergenerational assimilation in terms of socioeconomic attainment, social relations and cultural beliefs. We then qualify this perspective by considering sources of disadvantage for immigrants on both sides of the Atlantic. In the United States, the lack of legal status is particularly problematic; in Europe, by contrast, religious difference is the most prominent social factor complicating assimilation. We proffer several general propositions summarizing mechanisms embedded in purposive action, social networks, cultural difference, and institutional structures that drive the interplay of blending and segregating dynamics in the incorporation of immigrants and their children.

Annual Review of Sociology