Aspirations, Capital and Identity: Four studies on the determinants of life chances for young Swedes with an immigrant background

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)


The dissertation examines the determinants of life chances among young people with immigrant background in Sweden. The dissertation includes four research papers, each examining a specific research question on a determinant of life chances. The studies are based on datasets from two surveys: the Social Capital and Labour Market Integration survey, and a longitudinal study of ten schools in Malmö.

Study I examines aspired pathways, asking whether young people want to continue directly to university from secondary education or if they mix in other plans. The results show that young people with an immigrant background aspire less to experimentation and prefer direct transition. The results have two facets: Young people with immigrant origin are determined to be successful. On the other hand, opting for less experimentation may deprive them of an opportunity to explore their self and life outside university, which may be an important source for informal resources.

Study II investigates access to social capital among mixed-union children, and its distribution across trans-national and social sources. The results diverge from previous studies that argue that social integration of children of mixed unions lies between that of the children of immigrants and children of two Swedish-born parents, or are similar to children of Swedish-born parents. The results suggest that social capital depends on the migration background of the foreign-born parent, which influences whether children from mixed unions have greater or lesser access to social capital, and whether this access is through few or many sources.

Study III examines involvement in diverse cultural activities, so-called omnivorousness. It is often argued that omnivores are tolerant of, and inclusive to, the stigmatised other. The idea is tested by examining if individuals involved in diverse forms of cultural activities bridge disconnected ethnic groups. The results are not in line with this hypothesis, suggesting that previous studies are far too ready to associate progressive “positive” attributes with omnivores, and do not fully capture what people actually do in their social relations.

Study IV examines if young people who view themselves as invandrare (“immigrant”) are additionally disadvantaged compared to other young people of immigrant origin. The results show a greater association with depression and unemployment risk among people with explicit immigrant identity. Yet, people of immigrant origin with no explicit identity have even greater disadvantage. Thus, an explicit sense of self, even a stigmatised one, protects people from falling into the most disadvantaged positions.

Taken together, the four studies provide new insights on the life chances of young Swedes with an immigrant background, and they underscore the fact that social integration has to be understood as a complex process.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)


  • aspirations, capital, identity, immigrants, young people
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
Award date2018 Sep 12
  • Lund University
Print ISBNs978-91-7753-771-7
Electronic ISBNs978-91-7753-772-4
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2018-09-12 Time: 14:00 Place: The auditorium (room 128), Stora Algatan 4, Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Urban, Susanne Title: Docent Affiliation: Uppsala University ---

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