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Beyond assimilation: The Second Generation in France. Patrick SIMON – INED Visiting Scholar Russell Sage Foundation Fulbright Fellow Center for Immigration Studies, San Diego University, La Jolla, .

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beyond assimilation the second generation in france

Beyond assimilation: The Second Generation in France

Patrick SIMON – INED

Visiting Scholar Russell Sage Foundation

Fulbright Fellow

Center for Immigration Studies, San Diego University, La Jolla,

Wikileaks reportsensitive information from the US embassy about the situation in France (post 2005 riots)

“The real problem is the failure of white and Christian France to view their darker, Muslim compatriots as real citizens. The cumulative effect has been the creation of a generation of young males lacking parental control and unequipped to secure and hold a job, even if they could break through the formidable barriers of prejudice faced by young Arabs and young blacks in particular.”

Nov 9, 2005

  • The Background :
    • integrationist paradigm and its crisis
    • categorisation’s controversy : Second Generation, diversity and colorblindness
    • A rising concern for discrimination: policies and the European agenda
  • The racialized society hypothesis: findings from the TeO survey
    • How to make a survey on discrimination in a colorblind society?
    • Residential segregation
    • Access to labour market
    • Self reported experience of discrimination
    • Reactive identity
an old immigration country
An old immigration country

Massive immigration begins at the end of the 19th Century (an outlier in Europe)

Mostly neighboring migration (Germans, Swiss, Belgians, Italians, Spaniards) and then Polish, Armenians and Russians …

What has happened to the “old second generation” of interwar immigrants?

Post-colonial migration and the “new second generation” issue

a colorblind society
A colorblind society?
  • The French ‘republican model of integration’ : the powerful myth of ethnic undifferentiation
  • ‘Ethno-cultural’ and ‘Racial’ issues are reframed through the canonical ‘social question’ and, more recently, the ‘urban crisis’ in the deprived neighbourhood and social housing
  • Emergence of ‘diversity’ issues : the return of race?
    • Discrimination challenging the Republican model
    • Post-colonial debate and the legacy of slavery
    • the November 2005 riots
the integrationist paradigm
The Integrationist Paradigm
  • Merging the immigrants in the French crucible
    • Unity through uniformity
    • Production of invisibility
  • “ Integration is a way to obtain the active participation to society as a whole of all women and men who are lastingly going to live on our land while overtly accepting that specific, mostly cultural, features will be preserved and nevertheless insisting on the similarities and the convergence, with equal rights and duties for all in order to preserve the cohesion of our social fabric. […] Integration considers that differences are a part of a common project unlike either assimilation which aims at suppressing differences, or indeed insertion which establishes that their perpetuation is a guarantee for protection.” (HCI, 1993)
the french anti discrimination law and the eu race directive 2000 43
The French Anti-discrimination Law and the EU Race Directive (2000/43)
  • EU 2000 : “indirect discrimination shall be taken to occur where an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice would put persons of a racial or ethnic origin at a particular disadvantage compared with other persons, unless that provision, criterion or practice is objectively justified by a legitimate aim and the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary.”
  • Transposed in French law in 2001, definition for indirect discrimination included in 2008
  • Formal equality more than effective equality or equity
  • Clash of conceptions between integration and antidiscrimination: positive action is challenging the strategy of color-blindness (undifferentiation)
who are we talking about the problem with the categories
Who are we talking about?The problem with the categories

Categories in the Census since 1851 (and thus in public debate and social science): Foreigners (citizenship), immigrants (place of birth and nationality)

A cleavage between the metropole (mainland territory) and the colonial empire

In some surveys, place of birth and citizenship at birth of parents have been introduced: “second generation” (native born from immigrant parentage)

let s just see if ethnicity race has an impact on opportunities and outcomes

Let’s just see if ethnicity/race has an impact on opportunities and outcomes

For this purpose, I use the TeO survey in which “ethnicity” will be defined as the country of birth/nationality at birth of the individual and of his/her parents

Race will be defined indirectly by the racialization of specific ethnic groups, i.e Arabs (north African mainly), Sub-saharan African and DOM natives and 2nd generation (Blacks) and Asians (South East Asians mainly)

population surveyed

« Mainstreampopulation  »

N=3 800

76% of pop°


of immigrant(s)

N=8 200

12% of total pop°


Of DOM native-born


N=8 500

10% of pop°

Born in Overseas department (DOM)

N=1 400

2% of pop

Around 22 000 respondents18 to 60 years old

- Metropolitan France -

collecting data
Collecting data
  • From September 2008 to February 2009, nationwide (metropolitan)
  • CAPI face to face itws, questionnaire lasting 66 minutes on average
  • Translators required when needed (but not often)
  • 25% of the sample have moved, 46% new addresses have been retreived
  • 21900 « long forms » and 3700 « short forms »
  • More than 500 interviewers
  • Success rate: 79%, but refusals quite low
controversies that have an impact on the research agenda
Controversies that have an impact on the research agenda
  • A campaign against questions related to religion and skin color
  • Up to the Constitutional Council (11/2007) which has stated that collecting data on race or ethnicity is infringing article 1 of the Constitution
  • Ambiguous decision which leads to interpretation and opens the door for “subjective” or third party racial classification
  • Two questions on skin color have been deleted
what s behind the fear of ethnic statistics
What’s behind the fear of “ethnic statistics”

Extract from the petition from SOS Racism

“I refuse to be asked about the color of my skin, my origin or my religion. (…) I refuse to have my identity reduced to criteria from bygone eras, eras like the French colonial period or Vichy. (…) I refuse that the attention and investigation be focused on the victims rather than the perpetrators of discrimination. The required knowledge of the reality of discrimination should be gathered by other means, for example, through individual in situ investigations of racist conduct.”

why statistics a sensitive issue
Why statistics a sensitive issue ?

Statistics make visible the invisible

Statistics reflect and emphasize the diversity of the population : a threat to unity

Statistics bring bad news : the model of integration is not successful anymore (and it may never have been)

Statistics challenge the French political model of “equality through uniformity”

Data collection for positive action rely on a huge engineering of categories, questionnaire, files, administrative regulations which bring race and ethnicity at the heart of everyday life

Ethnic and racial classifications are reproducing racists stereotypes and re-activating colonial categories


Migrants and Second Generation Immigrants count for 2.7 millions (10% of population aged 18-50) and 5 millions for all ages2nd Generation make up 3.1 millions (12% of 18-50)

where do they live

Where do they live?

Persisting segregation or residential mobility?

patterns of segregation
Patterns of segregation
  • Recent studies on segregation using census data, even if ethnic minorities are not identified
  • Ethnic segregation is higher than social class segregation (Preteceille, 2009) and it has increased between 1990 and 2000 (Safi, 2009)
  • Segregation patterns are different for European immigrants (mostly less segregated and going through a residential mobility process) and African and Turkish minorities (highly segregated in social housing and deprived neighborhoods)
  • Differential mobility trajectories between racialized immigrants and mainstream population (including non racialized immigrants) account for most of the growth in dissimilarity indexes between the last censuses (Pan-Ke-Shon, 2009)
living in high concentration immigrant neighborhoods
Living in High concentration immigrant neighborhoods

% living in neighborhoods in top decile of immigrant concentration

living in deprived neighborhoods
Living in Deprived Neighborhoods

% living in neighborhoods from the top 2 deciles of unemployment rates


Relative risk of living in an immigrant segregated neighborhoodOdds Ratio, control for gender, age, education, occupation, size of metropolitan area and social background


Relative risk to live in a deprived neighborhoodOdds Ratio, control for gender, age, education, occupation, size of metropolitan area and social background

  • Ethnicity matters: Maghrebians, Sub-Saharan African are highly segregated in deprived neighborhoods
  • South Europeans and Asians have moved in more mixed areas
  • French from Overseas Departements (DOM) are more at risk of segregation than mainstream population
  • Second Generations are less segregated than immigrants from the same ethnic background, but are still very far from parity with mainstream population
  • Significant differentials in the type of contacts with the mainstream society and on opportunities on the labor market

Relative risk of being unemployedOdds Ratio, control for gender, age, education, occupation, size of metropolitan area, religion, neighborhoods and social background

self reported experience of discrimination
Self-reported experience of discrimination

Source : Trajectoires et Origines, INED-INSEE, 2008.

Champ : 18-50 years old.

frenchness denied othering
Frenchness denied (othering)

Question in the survey “People see me as a French person”

Answer: disagree and totally disagree

Source: Trajectories and Origins Survey, 2008-2009, INED and INSEE

reactive identity and minorization
Reactive identity and minorization
  • High level of “French” belongings among all Second Generation (around 90%, with 2G Turks as outliers= 76%)
  • High level of multiple identities combining French and ethnic origins: Hyphenated identities becoming a norm which is not challenging participation to society or “national identity”
  • But a feeling of not being accepted as full members of the French society
  • Political alignment towards the left parties to overcome stigmatization and achieving equality: fake promises and disillusions are at stakes
  • Strong transmission of Muslim identity
  • Compared to their parents, 2nd Generations have higher educational attainments, are less segregated but face more severe gaps on the labor market
  • The broad categories of immigrants and 2nd generations cover significant disparities between groups: Europeans vs Africans (North and Sub-Saharan), Turks and Asians being outliers
  • Social and human capital explain a large share of the relative underprivileged positions of the descendents of immigrants, but there is still a significant impact of ethnicity/race
  • Invisible boundaries based on ethnicity and “race” are framing social worlds and predict opportunities and outcomes
  • More than relying on individual or collective characteristics attached to ethno-cultural specificities, trajectories are shaped by prejudice and the experience of discriminations
  • What kind of broad picture is supported by these findings?
    • Same old story, the new second generation is going through a process of assimilation and will overcome the usual hostility against “newcomers”. The process is slower because of the new economy and the changing institutional context, but there is nothing new here.
      • OK, but why did not the European second generations undergo a similar process in the interwar and immediate after WW2 periods?
    • Segmented assimilation: but to which native minorities the “new second generation” is supposed to assimilate?
    • A process of “post-colonial racial formation”: a “racialized” structure that will frame the future of the French stratification, re-activating colonial hierarchies
more on teo check http teo english site ined fr

More on TeO?Check

Questionnaire and publications in English

Dataset publicly available