Immigrants and Norwegian-born to immigrant parents – population statistics

Large diversity in little Norway


This article was first published in Norwegian, in Statistics Norway’s journal Samfunnsspeilet: Andreassen, Kristina Kvarv, Minja Tea Dzamarija og Tove Irene Slaastad (2013): Innvandrere og norskfødte med innvandrerforeldre – befolkningsstatistikk. Stort mangfold i lille Norge. Samfunnsspeilet 5/2013. Statistisk sentralbyrå.

The ethnic and cultural diversity in Norway is greater now than ever before. The population grew 1.3 per cent last year, with immigration accounting for 72 per cent of this growth. This means that the country’s population, which has passed the 5 million mark, is now much more diverse. Equally diverse are the reasons for persons born in other countries embarking on the long or short journey to Norway with hopes of living and working here. Their children, with their multi-cultural backgrounds, will also gradually make their mark on the country.

Open and read the article in PDF (252 KB)

The word ‘diversity’ pops up continually in public and social debates when issues such as immigration and immigrants are discussed. Based on the interest that society shows in immigrants and integration, it seems that issues related to diversity have become everyday topics of conversation in Norway.

Diversity is also an appropriate word to describe all the reasons why people cross the Norwegian border: love, family, work, conflict, war, poverty, adoption, education - to name but a few. In a globalised world, the opportunity and need to move to a new country are both becoming more and more prevalent. With 5 million inhabitants, Norway is a small country on a global scale, but we have one of the fastest growing populations in Europe. According to figures from Eurostat - the statistical office of the European Union - only Luxembourg had a higher population growth rate than Norway in 2012.

Diversity is an appropriate word to describe the composition of the Norwegian population. As of 1 January 2013, Norway was home to persons who, through their own, their parents or their grandparents’ country of birth had a background from a total of 223 countries and autonomous regions.

Is it possible to measure diversity?

How does diversity manifest itself in the population statistics? Is it possible to measure it in any way? Statistics Norway publishes annual statistics on immigrants and Norwegian-born to immigrant parents. There is a great demand for these statistics. Immigration policy is a key area of the political parties’ policies, as well as State governance and public debate in general. The statistics on immigrants are also of great importance in research, particularly within demographics and other social sciences.

However, immigrants and Norwegian-born to immigrant parents are just two of thirty small and large categories that Statistics Norway can place the entire Norwegian population in based on information about their own, their parents and their grandparents’ country of birth. Thus, it is possible to “measure” the foreign element of a person’s background over three generations. Statistics Norway has, nevertheless, chosen to include just two of these thirty combinations in the ordinary immigration statistics, and this choice will be explained further in the text. The other 28 codes have rarely been applied in statistics and analyses, and are often assembled under the heading “rest of the population.”


Immigrants are persons who are resident in Norway, but who are born abroad to two foreign-born parents and have four foreign-born grandparents.

Norwegian-born to immigrant parents are persons born in Norway, who have two parents who are immigrants, and four grandparents born abroad.

For earlier discussions of the topic, refer to Samfunnsspeilet 3/2004 and 4/2006 (Lie and Østby 2004, Østby 2006). An article by Helge Brunborg (2013) was also published in Samfunnsspeilet, which refers to these codes in connection with population projections.

Statistics Norway is sometimes criticised for using too narrow a definition in its official statistics on immigrants and Norwegian-born to immigrant parents. It has been queried whether Statistics Norway under-communicates the scope of persons with an immigrant background by not including so-called “third generation immigrants” in their descriptions. Other times we are criticised for having too wide a definition of persons with an immigrant background, when we include Norwegian-born to immigrant parents in the immigrant statistics despite the fact that they have not immigrated to Norway.

It is important to note that Statistics Norway’s primary consideration must be to provide a statistically correct description of important social phenomena along the dimensions that an expert assessment would consider to be relevant. Although it is possible to generate statistics on a group, it is not enough - there must also be a justified reason for creating these statistics.

How do we categorise?

A statistical method is used to group the entire Norwegian population according to their own, their parents and their grandparents’ country of birth. All residents of Norway are assigned a code number consisting of three digits, indicating the country of birth for the three generations.

The first digit indicates a person’s own country of birth. This is 0 where the person is born in Norway and 1 if they were born abroad.

The second digit indicates their parents’ country of birth, and is 0, 1 or 2 depending how many of the parents were born abroad: 0 for both parents born in Norway, 1 for one parent born abroad and 2 for both parents born abroad.

The third digit is 0, 1, 2, 3 or 4, and indicates the number of foreign-born grandparents.

As illustrated in Figure 1, this gives 2 x 3 x 5 = 30 diffe­rent combinations. These are our basic codes.


These codes are fundamental to constructing immigrant-related variables, and serve this purpose well, but are otherwise rarely used as a direct basis for publishing statistics. In this article we aim to give a description of the Norwegian population in a more nuanced way as we think it will give a useful insight into the size of the groups, as well as the composition of the different groups.

5 million Norwegians spread over 30 categories

As of 1 January 2013, the population of Norway was 5 051 000 persons. Table 1 shows how the Norwegian population looked at this time based on information on country of birth for three generations. The size of the groups ranged from 4 persons to 3.9 million. In other words, a large number of the categories have no statistical significance or any solid foundation for a detailed statistical analysis.

Only five of the thirty categories have more than 100 000 persons. In order to illustrate how different these groups are, we will examine six of the categories (see Table 2).

It is not necessarily the largest groups that society shows the most interest in. Groups 000, 012, 124 and 024 are large groups, and the latter two are described in our official statistics. We shall also look at two small groups: “Norwegian-born children of an immigrant and a Norwegian-born with immigrant parents” (014) and the group “children born in Norway to two Norwegian-born parents and four foreign-born grandparents “(004). Some people argue that these groups should be included in Statistics Norway’s official statistics on immigration.

000 – the largest group

The biggest group is made up of persons born in Norway with only Norwegian parents and grandparents (code 000), totalling around 3.9 million, or 77 per cent of all residents in Norway. This group totalled 85 per cent in 2004, which means that the share has fallen, but the number of persons in the group has remained relatively stable.

The fall in the share of the 000 group is not surprising, and is a visible expression of the globalisation that takes place through increased immigration. There are also more and more people marrying a spouse from another country. The size of the group has not grown in recent years because the number of deaths and emigrations is larger than the number of births and immigrations in this group.

According to our basic codes, eight out of ten persons resident in Norway had no foreign background in three generations as per 1 January 2013.

Every fifth person with the 000 code lived either in Oslo or Akershus, and almost as many were found in Hordaland and Rogaland. The three northernmost counties were home to about 11 per cent of all persons with code 000. Fifty-seven per cent of the total population in the capital belonged to this code, and Nordstrand was the district with the highest share with 000. Seven out of ten residents in Nordstrand had no foreign background in three generations. The district with the lowest share of this group was Søndre Nordstrand, where four out of ten had the 000 code.

1.2 million with an element of a foreign background

Persons who are grouped in the remaining 29 codes have a varying element of foreign background. Together, these total 1.2 million, or 23 per cent of the population. Having just one grandparent from Denmark or Sweden, for instance, is enough to fall under this 23 per cent. What makes the various groups interesting or not?

We have selected six groups because they have some special features we want to describe. Group 000 is included both because of its size and as a benchmark for the other groups. Immigrants (124) and Norwegian-born to immigrant parents (024) are central to our statistics, and are naturally included in the description. Group 012 is both large and diverse with respect to the foreign element through one of the parents. We also have two small groups that have no statistical significance, but which garner a great deal of attention from society.

Thus, it is not just its size that makes a group worth looking at. For example, the fourth largest group, 001, totals 126 000 persons. It is not included in the description because there is no reason to assume that one foreign-born grandparent will affect a person’s demography, living conditions, education or career choices to any significant degree.

The overwhelmingly largest group among persons with an element of foreign background over three generations is foreign-born with all their parents and grandparents born outside Norway; defined by Statistics Norway as immigrants and grouped under code 124. Our figures portray a picture of a diverse Norway where the immigrants have backgrounds from as many as 220 different countries and autonomous regions, and all 428 municipalities have immigrants.

77 000 from Poland, 36 000 from Sweden

The group of immigrants totals 593 000 persons, which corresponds to 12 per cent of the population. The number of immigrants nearly doubled from 2003 to 2013 (see Figure 2), primarily due to significant labour and family immigration from new EU countries in East Europe.


Poles are the largest group, with 77 000 persons, followed by our Swedish neighbours with 36 000. A breakdown into the different corners of the world shows that a good 54 per cent are from Europe and 29 per cent are from Asia, while Africa accounts for 11 per cent of all immigrants in Norway. A further 5 per cent come from the American continent.

Twenty-nine per cent of all immigrants in Norway have a refugee background – they are either refugees or they are part of the family immigration of refugees. The two largest groups here are Iraqis and Somalis.

The gender distribution among immigrants is fairly even; 52 per cent are men and 48 per cent are women. However, the group “immigrants” is so complex that even such a simple breakdown into men and women has little meaning if individual countries are not examined. The variations are large. Men are in the majority among immigrants from the new EU member states such as Poland, Lithuania and Romania. Immigration from these countries is extensive and recent, and is characterised by a general trend in the migration pattern; the male “vanguard” arrives first as a migrant work, and his family joins him later.

Men are also in the majority among newly-arrived refugees, such as those from Afghanistan and Iraq. In flight situations, men often travel in advance, while any family follows later. Women dominate from countries such as the Philippines, Thailand and Russia. These are primarily women who come to Norway to marry men without a foreign background.

The age distribution in this group differs from group 000. Again, we must emphasise that immigrants as a whole rarely give an accurate picture of reality, since the group is so complex, but a few disparities in relation to the 000 group are, nevertheless, clearly visible. There are far fewer elderly among the immigrants than among the 000 group. Only 5 per cent of immigrants were over 66 years of age as of 1 January 2013, compared with 16 per cent in the 000 group. There are also far fewer children aged 0-15 years among immigrants, where the share was 9 per cent compared with 17 per cent in the other group. Meanwhile, the share of immigrants aged 16-30 years and 31-66 years is 10 per cent higher than among the 000 group, with 27 and 59 per cent respectively.

Of all adult immigrants aged 18 years and older, 54 per cent were registered as married per 1 January 2013. The share that was married is higher than for the 000 group. The disparity is even greater in the younger age groups. The young immigrants are, as with young persons in the 000 group, unmarried as long as they are under 18.

Desire to live centrally, but not necessarily in Oslo

Thirty-seven per cent of all immigrants in Norway lived in Oslo and Akershus combined, compared with 20 per cent among the 000 group. Oslo has 24 per cent of all immigrants in the country, compared with 9 per cent of the 000 group. Although the number of immigrants in Oslo and Akershus is increasing in line with the increasing immigration, the share of immigrants who settle in Oslo and Akershus has fallen steadily over the past ten years. In 2003, 45 per cent of all immigrants in Norway were resident in Oslo and Akershus, compared to 37 per cent in 2013.

The share in the two central counties in particular has seen a decline since 2006 because the number in other regions is growing so much faster due to labour immigration from the EU countries. We can, therefore, conclude that the large labour migration from new EU countries has contributed to a more even settlement pattern. However, only 6 per cent of the immigrants live in Northern Norway.

As already noted, “immigrants” is not a particularly appropriate analysis group, and the settlement patterns of the various immigrant groups vary even more than the total figures. The settlement pattern of the largest immigrant group - the Poles – is not as distinct from those in the 000 group as other large immigrant groups. Around 30 per cent of all Poles are resident in Oslo and Akershus, compared with 20 per cent in the category 000.

For comparison, we find 83 per cent of the immigrants with a background from Pakistan in Oslo and Akershus, and 67 per cent in Oslo alone. Immigrants from Morocco make up the only other group with such a large concentration in Oslo.

Half Norwegian and born in Norway – over 180 000

The third largest group among our 30 code categories is category 012. These are persons born in Norway and who have one parent and two grandparents born abroad; a total of 184 000. The age distribution in this group is characterised by a large number of the very young. Forty-one per cent are under 15 and 22 per cent are between 16-30 years.

One of the parents is thus an immigrant, and in many cases originates from Sweden and Denmark. The figure for all Nordic countries combined is well in excess of 60 000, which means that every third person in this category has a Nordic father or mother. The UK (14 800), USA (13 200), Germany (10 900), Philippines (6 400) and Thailand (5 600) are also well represented.

Overall, there are roughly as many in this category with a foreign-born father as a foreign-born mother, but this varies by country of origin. While the gender distribution among Nordic parents is about equal, the foreign-born parent from the Philippines and Thailand is almost exclusively the mother. Nine out of ten persons with a Turkish or Moroccan background in this category have a foreign-born father with a background from these countries, while nine out of ten with a Russian background have a foreign-born mother. Mothers come from Brazil and fathers come from Iran and Italy in eight out of ten cases.

The share of married adults in the 012 group is slightly lower than in the category 000, and only 1 per cent of the age group 18-24 years was married on 1 January 2013. More than a quarter live in Oslo and Akershus, so this group is almost as concentrated around these two counties as immigrants.

Oslo alone was home to 18 per cent of all those in 012. Among the 000 group and immigrants, the corresponding shares were 9 and 24 per cent respectively. Nevertheless, this group did not constitute more than 5 per cent of the total population in the capital. None of Oslo’s districts have any visible concentration of this group. In the districts Ullern and Vestre Aker, 7 per cent of the population is in category 012, while Stovner has the lowest share of 012s, with 3 per cent of the total population in the district.

Norwegian-born children of immigrants

This group, category 024, Norwegian-born to immigrant parents, totals 117 000 persons and is part of Statistics Norway’s annual statistics on immigrants and Norwegian-born to immigrant parents. The group consists of a large number of young people; 72 per cent were below the age of 16 as of 1 January 2013. The corresponding share in category 000 was 17 per cent, while among immigrants, only 9 per cent were younger than 16.

Most Norwegian-born to immigrant parents are in groups that have been living in Norway for a long time, and when they have children, it is usually with a partner from the same country. This applies to most of those from Africa, Asia etc. Many Danish and Swedish immigrants have also lived here for a long time, but if they have a partner from the same country, they tend to settle in their native country. If they have children with a non-immigrant, they more often settle in Norway, but their children are in category 012, not 024.

By far the largest group, with 15 000 persons, is Norwegian-born to immigrant parents from Pakistan. This is not surprising since their parents are one of the groups with the longest period of residence in Norway. The first immigrants from Pakistan arrived in the late 1960s. The second largest group is Norwegian-born children of immigrants from Somalia, with 9 000 persons. In this group, as much as nine out of ten are under 16 years of age. Most of their parents have a refugee background, and many have a relatively short period of residence in Norway. Somali immigrant women also have a higher fertility rate than women in category 000 and immigrant women as a whole.

Children of immigrants from Vietnam make up the third largest group in the category 024, and total 8 000 persons. Their parents also have a long period of residence in Norway. The first Vietnamese immigrants arrived as refugees in 1975 following the Vietnam War. Norwegian-born to immigrant parents from Vietnam are therefore younger than Norwegian-born to Pakistani parents.

Most are living in Oslo and Akershus

The settlement pattern of Norwegian-born to immigrant parents is the same as for the parents, with a large concentration in Oslo and Akershus. As per 1 January 2013, half of all Norwegian-born to immigrant parents lived in these two counties, and the capital alone was home to 38 per cent of this category. This group totalled 44 000 persons in Oslo at the end of 2012, and represents 7 per cent of the total population in the capital. Seventeen per cent of these were in Alna, while Ullern had just 1 per cent.

Very few live in the northern counties. Only 2 per cent of everyone in category 024 was living in Nordland, Troms or Finnmark as per 1 January 2013. In absolute numbers, this amounts to around 3 000 persons.

With a modest 300 persons, children of Somali immigrants made up the largest group of Norwegian-born to immigrant parents in Northern Norway.

A small handful – sometimes referred to as the third generation

This group, i.e. category 004, totalled 465 persons as per 1 January 2013. The grandparents of this group most commonly immigrated to Norway in the 1970s, and their parents were born in the 1970s or later. Thus, it is only in recent years that the parents of this group have been old enough to have children. This is shown in the age distribution, where just 13 persons (3 per cent) are aged 15 or older. Two thirds of the group are below the age of 4. The group is thus so small and so young that its members have not had the opportunity to make many choices as yet; the settlement pattern in this group is largely based on their parents’ decisions.

Over half of the group has a Pakistani background. Other groups include Turkey and Morocco. Here we can also see a clear correlation with the country groups that immigrated in the 1970s.

It is too early to draw any conclusions about this group except that most of them are still at kindergarten and primary school. Even in 20 years’ time it will be too soon to make any detailed statistical analysis, as no more than 465 will be 20 years old or older by that time.

One and a half generations from abroad

These persons are born in Norway to parents where one is born in Norway to two immigrants and the other is an immigrant. This is category 014, and consists of 5 400 persons. Persons belonging to this group are generally very young; almost everyone is younger than 20, and about half are less than 4 years old. Seventy-four per cent of this group live in Oslo and Akershus.

The reason why this group is interesting enough to be included in the description despite being such a small group, is that it is growing sharply and is often the subject of public debate. Many believe that this group has much in common with 024 and 004 since all parents and grandparents originate from the same country.

As in group 004, this is related to the fact that two of the grandparents immigrated in the 1970s and had children in the 70s and 80s, and it is only now that these children are old enough to have children.

Fifty-seven per cent have a parent and grandparent who were born in Pakistan. The second largest group is those with a parent and grandparent originating from Turkey, making up 12 per cent.

Pakistani immigrants and Norwegian-born to immigrant parents from Pakistan are the most endogamic in Norway (Daugstad 2006; Henriksen 2010). Both groups commonly marry someone with the same country background.

It is also common to marry transnationally, i.e. with someone who immigrates from the “old country”. Among Norwegian-born to immigrant parents from Turkey, we see the same pattern as among those with a Pakistani background. It is reasonable to assume that this group will grow in the future. It has doubled since 2007, but still only constitutes 0.1 per cent of the Norwegian population.

A small country with growing diversity

Norway’s demography is characterised by the fact that we are a relatively small country with a large share with no immigrant background. However, the diversity is steadily widening along with the increasing immigration.

Of all residents, 3 per cent have an element of foreign descent through their grandparents, while 7 per cent have a foreign background primarily through one or both of their parents. In total, 13 per cent were born abroad.

The presentation of these figures shows how heterogeneous the population is as a whole and that many of the groups cannot be analysed as a unit.

For Statistics Norway, the groups of immigrants and Norwegian-born to immigrant parents will continue to be most central to the statistics on immigrants. However, as the size and demographic characteristics of the other groups change they are likely to be subject to further statistical descriptions. This will help us to ascertain if they show any disparities in living conditions, or if they generally blend into the same pattern of behaviour as the rest of the population.


Brunborg, H. (2013): Hvor mange innvandrere er det – og blir det – i Norge? (How many immigrants are there – and will there be – in Norway?), Samfunnsspeilet 3, 2013, Statistics Norway. (http:/

Daugstad, G. (2006): Grenseløs kjærlighet? Familieinnvandring og ekteskapsmønster i det flerkulturelle Norge (Love without borders? Family immigration and marriage patterns in multi-cultural Norway), Reports 2006/39, Statistics Norway. (

Henriksen, K. (2010): Familieinnvandring og 1990-2008 (Family immigration and marriage patterns 1990-2008), Reports 2010/10, Statistics Norway. (

Lie, B. and L. Østby (2004): Har du en utenlandsfødt bestemor eller bestefar? (Do you have a foreign-born grandmother or grandfather?) Samfunnsspeilet 3, 2004, Statistics Norway. (

Østby, L. (2006): Hvor stor innvandrerbefolkning har egentlig Norge? (How large is Norway’s immigrant population?) Samfunnsspeilet 4, 2006, Statistics Norway. (