Integration of immigrants in Norway
Concepts, indicators and group variations
The subject of this report is the integration of immigrants and Norwegian-born to immigrant parents, and how this can be measured. In the introduction, several social science perspectives on the integration of immigrants are presented and discussed. An important point is that the definition of «successful integration» is a normative question that has no unequivocal answer. In the report, we choose to approach the measurement of integration in a broad manner, trying to include the most important social science perspectives.
A common perspective is that individuals or a group are integrated when they achieve the same socioeconomic goods as other members of society. This is often linked to employment, housing and income. In the report, this is called structural integration. Another common perspective is the linking of integration to social participation and attachment, called social integration. The third dimension is the psychological-cultural dimension, which comprises the experience of national belonging and to what degree immigrants have the same values as the majority. The fourth dimension is the political, which is about political participation and trust in major societal institutions. The last dimension or perspective is called limits and resources for integration. This comprises indicators of Norwegian language skills, health and discrimination.
An important line of inquiry has been to study how these dimensions are associated and linked, particularly the link between the structural dimension and the other dimensions. To answer this, we have analysed the Survey on living conditions among persons with an immigrant background 2016. This survey is unique, since it enables a broad picture of living conditions, attitudes and values among immigrants from 12 of the most important source countries in Norway. It also includes Norwegian-born to immigrant parents from four countries: Turkey, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
We find mixed evidence for a link between structural integration and the other dimensions. As an example, some indicators show a higher level of integration among employed immigrants, such as indicators on Norwegian language skills, health and social integration. On the other hand, the link between structural and political integration is weak or non-existent, and the same goes for cultural integration and the sense of belonging to Norway. There are some exceptions: House owners have a stronger sense of belonging than those who are renters, and among Norwegian-born to immigrant parents, low income and economic problems are associated with a weaker sense of belonging to the national community.
More highly educated immigrants seem to be more distanced than others from the national community, and more often report being discriminated when applying for jobs. This happens in spite of better language skills and other resources in this group. This is in line with what other researchers have named «the integration paradox». The paradox might be explained by educational differences in knowledge and expectations of equal treatment.
Living conditions for Norwegian-born to immigrant parents are often seen as the most decisive test of whether the integration process is a success. There are many examples of better integration outcomes among the Norwegian-born than among immigrants from the same countries and age group. This applies to both structural, social and psychological-cultural integration. The experience of discrimination is, however, somewhat more widespread among the Norwegian-born.
A recurrent theme in our analyses is the importance of good skills in Norwegian language. Such skills are correlated with stronger national belonging, higher rates of employment, more social contacts and less loneliness. Discrimination is another recurrent theme. As many as three out of ten immigrants say that they have experienced this, and more than four out of ten Norwegian-born to immigrant parents. The experience of discrimination is associated with increased loneliness, more problems of mental health and a weaker sense of belonging to Norway. There is also a surprisingly strong correlation between discrimination and exposure to violence and threats.