Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t: The Challenges of Including and Comparing the Children of Immigrants in European Survey Data

L. Lessard-Phillips, S. Galandini, H.A.G. de Valk, R. Fibbi

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Children of immigrants are becoming an important share in Europe’s population. Although most of them have not experienced immigration themselves, as many of them were born in the European country where they reside, their families have. This specific position might have an impact on how they fare across their life in the country they live in. In recent years, children of immigrants have become an increasingly important topic of study in Europe and the focus of many survey data collection projects. One of the main underlying goals of these endeavors has been to study the life outcomes (such as education, health, and employment) and understand the mechanisms behind the potential differences in these outcomes between children of immigrants and a predetermined ‘comparison group’. The main issues that arise from such comparative projects are (1) the definition of the population under study; (2) the levels at which those comparisons are made (e.g. local, provincial, national, cross-national, etc.); (3) the ‘benchmark’ for integration, or whom to compare the children of immigrants to; and (4) the various biases arising from this research. These issues have theoretical implications and important consequences on the types of analyses that can be performed as well as the conclusions that we can draw from those comparisons. By reviewing major studies including children of immigrants in Europe, we provide a comprehensive overview of the possible types, levels and benchmarks for comparison; their availability in current European data; and the advantages and disadvantages tied to using these.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSituating Children of Migrants across Borders and Origins
Subtitle of host publicationa Methodological Overview
EditorsC. Bolzman, L. Bernardi, J.M. Le Goff
Place of PublicationDordrecht
Number of pages29
ISBN (Electronic)978-94-024-1141-6
ISBN (Print)978-94-024-1139-3
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NameLife Course Research and Social Policies
ISSN (Print)2211-777


  • children of migrants
  • survey data
  • Europe

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