Back to search

VAM-Velferd, arbeid og migrasjon

Pathways to Integration: The Second Generation in Education and Work in Norway

Alternative title: Veier til integrasjon: etterkommere av innvandrere i utdanning og arbeid

Awarded: NOK 9.6 mill.

Project Number:


Application Type:

Project Period:

2015 - 2019

Funding received from:


Subject Fields:

The research project Pathways to Integration: The Second Generation in Education and Work in Norway have examined how the children of the first immigrants fare in education and working life. We have studied dropout from high school, aspirations among students in vocational education and attainment of elite education in medicine, law and economics. We have examined transitions from education to work, ethnic niche education at the top of the labor market and experiences of discrimination at the workplace. Through comparative perspectives, we have studied how the Norwegian welfare state's institutional structure shapes the descendants' social mobility patterns. In sum, the project paints a broad picture of the various paths to integration and marginalization that characterize the first and oldest group of descendants of immigrants in Norway. The project has so far resulted in one book publication and nine published articles. In addition, two articles are currently in the second round of review, and six are either submitted to journals or soon to be submitted. The project group has also been active in the dissemination of research results; together we have published six op-eds and have given 17 talks about our findings to various audiences. The Pathways project paints an ambiguous picture of how descendants of the first groups of immigrants in Norway. In many ways, it is undoubtedly a success story: Descendants in all groups receive a higher education to a greater extent than both their parents and immigrants of the same age and with the same country background. The descendants also participate in the working life to a much greater extent. Not least, the history of the descendants is also the story of a gender revolution: A greater proportion of female descendants take higher education than all other groups in society, and they are represented in the working life almost on par with male descendants. In other words, there has been a massive change in women's participation in both education and work in just one generation. It is important to emphasize that this positive development is not a matter of course. In many countries, we do not see similar patterns of intergenerational mobility. An important explanation that social mobility is so high among descendants of immigrants in Norway is the importance of what we might call the 'institutional opportunity structure' in Norway, constituted by a redistributive welfare state, a high quality education system free of charge, a ( fairly) regulated labor market and strong cultural norms for gender equality in both family and working life. All of these factors help to dampen the significance of growing up in disadvantage, for children and young people in general - and for children of immigrants in particular. At the same time, it is important not to be dazzled by group averages. The descendants' mobility patterns hide considerable variation, both between different country groups and between individuals in the same group. Although descendants in Norway are overrepresented in higher education compared to majority natives, they are also overrepresented among those who drop out of high school. It is important not to forget this vertical polarization when we summarize the status of descendants of immigrants in Norway. It is also crucial to bear in mind that socioeconomic mobility in itself does not protect against experiences of discrimination and exclusion. The Pathways project has documented that descendants of immigrants with a master's degree - a highly selective group - have the same probability of being employed as people with a majority background of the same age, when keeping social background, place of study, country of study and grades achieved constantly. This is promising, but does not mean that discrimination does not occur. On the contrary, ethnic discrimination in recruitment processes in Norway do occur, although the level is lower than in countries such as France and Sweden. In addition, more than 20 percent of descendants who are employed report that they have experienced discrimination in the workplace, a somewhat larger share than immigrants in the same age group have. A striking finding is also that the higher up the occupational hierarchy the descendants are employed, the greater the proportion of discrimination reported. In sum, we can state that since the early 1970s, there has taken place a gradual assimilation process in Norway. Substantial social mobility has taken place over the generations and ethnic background is not decisive for the positions of descendants in Norwegian society. On the other hand, it is important to be aware of both the variation between and within groups, and the persistent barriers that descendants experience in work and in society more general. Project website:

Samlet sett bidrar Pathways-prosjektets resultater til ny innsikt i hvordan innvandringen endrer Norge, og hvordan det norske samfunnet og den norske velferdsstaten former etterkommernes mobilitetsmønstre. Koblingen mellom fagdisipliner og datakilder i prosjektet, har gitt et helhetlig bilde av disse pågående prosessene. Denne forskningen er av stor betydning i dagens mediebilde og offentlige debatt, der innvandringsspørsmålet spiller en vesentlig rolle. At forskerne på prosjektet har blitt invitert til å presentere resultater i en rekke sammenhenger - fra politiske partier, departementer og direktorater til studentorganisasjoner og videregående skoler - tydeliggjør hvor etterspurt forskningsbasert kunnskap om de langsiktige konsekvensene av innvandring til Norge er for bredden i det norske samfunnet.

What pathways to integration characterise the transition from education to work among descendants of immigrants in Norway? Are they socially isolated and incorporated into marginalized sectors of the economy? Or are their achievements in education translated into relevant work and prominent positions in social life, contributing to a "remaking" of mainstream society, in which ethnic background will play a less significant role in determining individual life chances in the future? In this project, an team of sociologists, economists and anthropologists will use both quantitative and qualitative data to explore the dynamics of generational change, focusing on the pathways to integration experienced by descendants of immigrants in Norway. The project has four closely related sub-projects. First, we will study whether the immigrant parents' success or failure in the Norwegian labour market affect the labour market integration of the second generation. Second, we will study the extent to which descendants of immigrants' efforts in the educational sector is transferred into relevant work, and how family obligations and transnational marriages affect employment patterns of second generation men and women. Third, we will explore whether an elite of descendants of immigrants is in the making, by conducting comprehensive qualitative case studies among students in medicine, law and economics, as well as among lawyers, doctors and economists that have managed to gain positions in the labour market. Fourth, we will study descendants of immigrants enrolled in vocational education, following those who invest in more education, those who end up working in vocational professions, and those who are tracked into less privileged positions or even into permanent positions outside the labour market. The project will provide new and highly policy-relevant knowledge about the processes of integration and ultimately on the long-term effects of migration on the Norwegian society.

Publications from Cristin

No publications found

Funding scheme:

VAM-Velferd, arbeid og migrasjon