Bridge and barrier - contextualizing religion and immigrant occupational attainment

Phillip Connor, Pew Research Center
Matthias Koenig, University of Göttingen

How religion impacts upon immigrant integration is often assumed to differ widely across the Atlantic; while in the United States religion is portrayed as a ‘bridge’, it is described as a ‘barrier’ for immigrants in Europe. This paper formulates more fine-grained theoretical propositions on the context-dependent relations between religious affiliation or participation and structural integration, arguing that it is crucial to disentangle religious boundary dynamics from religious field characteristics. The propositions are empirically tested with nationally representative data on occupational attainment among first and second generation immigrants in the US (GSS), Western Europe (ESS) and Canada (EDS). In a first step, the US-Europe comparison confirms that while minority immigrant religious groups (notably Muslims) are less likely to be in higher occupations in Europe, occupational penalties by religious affiliation for immigrants in the US are hardly present. Likewise, religious participation is negatively associated with occupational attainment in Europe, but rather positively in the US. In a second step, a more detailed comparison within Canada indicates that religious minorities are not at an occupational disadvantage in English Canada, while Muslims are less likely to be in managerial/professional occupations in Quebec. However, second generation immigrants in both contexts seem to profit from religious participation for higher occupational attainment. Going beyond the ‘bridge’ v. ‘barrier’ metaphor, these findings suggest that religious boundary dynamics and religious field characteristics operate independently from each other.

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Presented in Poster Session 1