Dissertation Abstracts

The Impact of Legal status on immigrant childrens’s Educational Attainment: German Aussiedler and Non-German Immigrants Compared

Author: Söhn, Janina , janina.soehn@sofi.uni-goettingen.de
Department: Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB), Skill Formation & Labour Markets
University: FU Berlin, Germany
Supervisor: Solga, Heike
Year of completion: 2010
Language of dissertation: German

Keywords: migration , integration , education , legal status
Areas of Research: Education , Migration , Stratification


Janina Söhn's doctoral thesis explores the role of legal status, immigration and integration policies for immigrant children's incorporation into their host country's school system. The empirical focus is on individuals who immigrated to Germany as minors since the end of the 1980s and began or continued their school career in German schools. These recent cohorts of young immigrants encompass a substantial number of persons from diverse ethnic and social backgrounds as well as diverging legal-political contexts of reception. These new immigrants’ educational attainment has hardly been studied until now. Within this group of first generation immigrants, children of Aussiedler families (immigrants of German 'descent' from Eastern Europe) are compared with non-German immigrants. By comparing these particular groups, institutional determinants of educational opportunities can be analyzed: In how far does it matter that the receiving state treats different immigrant groups with varying legal statuses differently, Aussiedler being an example of privileged immigration? A theoretical part discusses ways in which immigration regulation, general and school-specific integration policies might impact immigrant groups’ educational achievements. This theoretical approach is then applied to the empirical case study: Do the actual institutional regulations in the case of Aussiedler and their comparison groups suggest that Aussiedler enjoy an educational head start? On the micro-level, the study uses two representative data sets, the Sample Census 2005 [Mikrozensus] and the third wave of the German Youth Survey. The analysis shows that indeed the privileged Aussiedler-status and its associated group-specific immigration and integration policies exert direct or indirect influences—mediated by their parents’ better economic and socio-cultural incorporation opportunities —on their educational attainment: While first generation immigrants in general have much lower chances than natives of attaining the high-level secondary school diploma, the Abitur, which allows studying at university, Aussiedler children mange to attain at least the mid-level school diploma more often and remain without any school diploma less frequently than their other immigrant peers, especially those who face accumulated risks like precarious refugee status and low parental education.
Janina Söhn’s PhD these, submitted in 2010 at the FU Berlin (supervisors: Heige Solga, Anja Weiß) and published in 2011, won the doctoral dissertation award of the research network „Sociology of education“ of the German Sociological Association (DGS). The dissertation was supported by a three-year dissertation grant of the Hans Böckler Foundation.
Söhn, Janina (2011): Rechtsstatus und Bildungschancen. Die staatliche Ungleichbehandlung von Migrantengruppen und ihre Konsequenzen. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.
Söhn, Janina (2014): How legal status contributes to differential integration opportunities. In: Migration Studies, 2 (3): 369-391.
Söhn, Janina (2013): Unequal Welcome and Unequal Life Chances: How the State Shapes Integration Opportunities of Immigrants, In: European Journal of Sociology/Archives Eu-ropéennes de Sociologie, 54 (2): 295-326.