location: Halle and Munich
The problem
Recently, the media in European countries like in France, Germany, Netherlands and Britain have reported increasing concern among officials about the emergence of parallel societies formed by immigrants populations. These so called "parallel societies" are characterised by poor educational achievement among children, lack of training opportunities for young people, a high rate of unemployment among young adults, a high crime rate, frequent vandalism and - last but not least - a trend towards ethnic self-exclusion among teenagers and young adults (Wacquant 1999). Actually very little is known about the determinants of integration and ethnic self-exclusion among young people, particularly those at disadvantage in the education and training systems and on the job market. Therefore we seek to address the issue by asking a number of questions. What are the causes of failure in vocational training and employment within this group? How does such failure relate to processes of ethnic self-exclusion? Which institutional factors support ethnic self-exclusion? Plays perceived discrimination in institutional, social and cultural contexts a significant role in explaining ethnic self-exclusion? Under which circumstances can this kind of exclusion be reversed?
In analysing and explaining ethnic self-exclusion we will use the conceptual framework provided by the concept of Social Construction of Ethnicity and of Social Identity Theory. According to these concepts we assume that processes of school-to-work transition, perceived ethnic discrimination or non-discrimination and social integration or exclusion among young immigrants are closely interrelated. Our analysis will be guided by three hypotheses:

  1. Successful educational and occupational integration will promote social integration, and this in turn will foster progress in education, training or employment
  2. Withdrawal and ethnic self-exclusion are responses to a perceived denial of goal realisation, particularly when that denial is ascribed to ethnic characteristics of young people from immigrant families
  3. Processes of self-exclusion in the school-to-work transition have a knock-on-effect. Experiencing ethnic discrimination in education, training or employment can cause a vicious circle of ethnic self-exclusion resulting in further exclusion from employment and participation in the host society.

In a longitudinal study we propose to investigate integration and self-exclusion among young people from immigrant families in the course of their transition from school to working life. We are already engaged in research into the school-to-work transition of 4,000 graduates of German Hauptschulen half of whom come from immigrant families. The difficult and expensive process of gaining access to this population has already been accomplished successfully and their consent to be interviewed over a period of three years has already been obtained. To proof our hypotheses we now intend to add a module on perceptions of ethnicity among young immigrants and their deliberate adoption of certain ethnic characteristics (“doing ethnicity”) to our ongoing longitudinal study.
We anticipate that our proposed research will provide insights into a variety of areas of importance to educators, administrators and policy makers and that the knowledge thus gained will help to promote effective occupational and social integration among young immigrants. We aim to achieve this in two ways:

  1. We will study the relationships between cultural messages transmitted by institutions and individuals involved in the school-to-work transition and the conclusions that young immigrants draw from these messages with regard to education, career decisions and training. The insights acquired in this way should help institutions and their staffs to understand more fully the consequences of educational and administrative activity in relation to integration and exclusion.
  2. We will study various patterns of ethnic withdrawal and self-exclusion with regard to their risks and potentials. This should promote understanding of how young immigrants express ethnicity and thus offer support to educators, administrators and policy makers in their efforts to deal with such ethnicity patterns in a productive and logical manner.


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Deutsches Jugendinstitut Außenstelle Halle
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