Research Project

Immigrant Integration Over Time and Across Generations

Photo of people walking across a busy street. High-rise buildings feature in the background

How do immigrants and their descendants compare to those without a migration background, and how do their life-chances and experiences change across time and across generations? How can we understand the role of discrimination in the lives of immigrants and their children?

In her role as researcher, and now assistant director, of the ESRC Research Centre for Micro-Social Change, Professor Renee Luthra has pursued answers to these questions as part of a multi-disciplinary team of economists, sociologists, and demographers for the previous 10 years.

Her work for MiSoC covers two primary strands: immigrant integration and the causes and consequences of ethnic and racial harassment.

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How can we explain differences among immigrants and their children in the USA and the UK?

With one in four young people under the age of 18 in both the UK and the USA reporting an immigrant parent, immigration and the integration of the foreign-born and their descendants has become an increasingly charged topic on both sides of the Atlantic. Reneeā€™s work brings new evidence to this topic from a variety of angles. In a series of papers as well as a book co-authored with Thomas Soehl (McGill) and Roger Waldinger (UCLA), Luthra and her colleagues argue that variation in the outcomes of immigrants and their children needs to be understood on two levels, and across international borders: the context of emigration and reception of immigrant groups, often tied to migration policy and socio-cultural factors shared by immigrants of the same national origin, as well as the resources or disadvantages of individual immigrant families. Together with Lucinda Platt (LSE), Luthra also brings this attention to variation within groups frequently treated as homogeneous by policy makers and the general public in the UK.

Drawing on an original dataset on new Polish and Pakistani immigrants in London collected in 2011/2012, Luthra, Platt and co-authors have generated a new migrant typology linked to migration motivations of free movement Polish migrants during recession and demonstrated heterogeneity in the characteristics and early labour market and sociocultural outcomes underlying a group considered as uniformly high-skilled and positively selected: student migrants. She is currently carrying on her work on these topics to examine variation in identification (with Soehl and Waldinger) and in political socialisation (with Magda Borkowska, also of MiSoC).

Who experiences ethnic and racial harassment, and how does it effect their health?

A second strand of Renee's research examines the causes and consequences of ethnic and racial harassment. Together with Alita Nandi (ISER), Luthra shows that this form of disadvantage is distinct from many others, with reports of harassment highest among the more highly educated, among men, and among those who participate more broadly in society. To explain this, Nandi and Luthra frame the risk of reporting ethnic and racial harassment in a novel way, as a characteristic associated with exposure deriving from time spent in public space and having the personal expectations of treatment and social confidence to identify harassment behaviours to survey interviewers and police.

Other work shows that UK-born ethnic minorities have higher rates of ethnic and racial harassment, worse mental health, and worse health behaviours, on average, than the foreign-born, despite being economically better off, and that ethnic minorities who experience the lowest levels of residential segregation are also those who suffer the highest probabilities of ethnic and racial harassment. Nandi and Luthra are currently continuing this work to examine the role that Brexit, Covid-19, and other threatening events may play in the exposure to discrimination by ethnic and racial minorities.