The Immigrant Experience: Changing Employment and Income Patterns in Sweden, 1970 - 1993.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


This thesis explores the changing patterns of employment and income assimilation among male immigrants to Sweden. In brief, the results of this work are that immigrants have been facing an increasingly difficult time integrating into the Swedish economy. This difficulty has not been caused by decreasing “quality” of the newer immigrant cohorts, as has often been the argument in the literature. Rather, the problems are a result of shifts in production and organization which led to shifting labor demand. The Swedish economy of 1993 demanded a totally different type of labor than it did in 1970, with increased emphasis on informal, country-specific skills. This shift in demand has had negative consequences for immigrants, with those who are culturally most similar to native Swedes performing much better than those with greater cultural distance.

The thesis sets up a number of hypotheses regarding the role of informal, country-specific skills for the assimilation of immigrants into the Swedish economy. In general, it is hypothesized that increased reliance on technology in the workplace will serve to block immigrant access to well paid, or “suitable,” employment. This is because shifts towards computerization, at least in recent years, have also involved shifts away from traditional, hierarchical organizational structures, and more inter-personal communication and dependence.

The thesis begins with a discussion of where immigrants have found employment over the past thirty years, and what type of employment was actually obtained. Here there is a discussion of the categories blue-collar, white-collar and self-employed at an aggregate level. Once this general mapping of the immigrant workforce is completed, the 1970 and 1990 censuses of the population are examined. Here, using OLS and logistic regressions, the fact that there has occurred a shift in income and employment performance between 1970 and 1990 is made evident. It is also fairly clear that this shift has not been to the benefit of immigrants.

Since two cross-sections separated by twenty years do not give any dynamic understanding of the problem, a longitudinal database was also used. Here, event history models are brought into play, combining micro data with macro time-series representing the infusion of technology into the Swedish economy. Here we can clearly see that the increase in technology is correlated with a decline in the economic position of immigrants, and that this decline increases in magnitude as cultural distance from Sweden increases.

The final two chapters then examine the extent to which the hypotheses were correct, and tie up the information into a package which describes the immigrant experience in the Swedish labor market over the past thirty years as one of deterioration and increasing difficulty.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Economic History
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date1999 Apr 17
ISBN (Print)91-7966-561-6
Publication statusPublished - 1999

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 1999-04-17
Time: 10:15
Place: Crafoordsalen, Holger Crafoords Ekonomicentrum

External reviewer(s)

Name: Pedersen, Peder J.
Title: Professor
Affiliation: Department of Economics, University of Aarhus


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Economic History

Free keywords

  • immigrant
  • Social and economic history
  • cultural distance
  • technological change
  • Ekonomisk och social historia
  • integration
  • Sweden
  • labor market
  • income
  • migration
  • assimilation


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