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Identificational Orientations Among Three Generations of Migrants in France (WP-22-30)

Ewurama Okai and Julia Behrman

Scholarship on migrant identity increasingly shows that migrants can – and often do – construct multifaceted identities.  Yet, questions around migrant identity formation remain contested in France, given a strongly assimilationist policy context that (in theory) precludes multiple identification.  This paper explores intergenerational patterns of migrant identification in France using a nationally representative sample of 1st, 1.5, and 2nd generation migrants in France from five diverse sending regions in the Trajectories and Origin (TeO) Survey. The researchers conduct a latent profile analysis to identify qualitatively different unobserved (or latent) categories of migrant identification based on observed responses to questions of identification and belonging.  These analyses suggest there are five distinct “identificational orientations” among migrants: assimilated, active bicultural, othered bicultural, detached bicultural, and ethnic. While the assimilated and ethnic categories provide some support for a traditional assimilation framework, biculturalism is widely prevalent and multifaceted: Okai and Behrman identify three distinct varieties of biculturalism (active, othered, and detached). They also provide evidence of segmentation in identificational assimilation by region of origin and conduct multivariate analyses that shed insight into the experiences that correlate with different identificational orientations. Their findings question the presumed threat of strong ethnic identification to France’s national cohesion and offer starting points for future research on how complex identities are formed within strongly assimilationist receiving contexts like France.

This paper is published in Social Forces.

Ewurama Okai, Department of Sociology, Northwestern University

Julia Behrman, Assistant Professor of Sociology and IPR Fellow, Northwestern University

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