Chapter 23: Ethnicity in the German immigration society

The long repressed fact that German society is characterised by immigration has meanwhile been acknowledged. Time after time the suspicion is voiced in public that in Germany (too) ethnic communities are emerging which are clearly and deliberately separated from majority society. Such presumptions are often followed by demands for a forced integration into the overall society by means of a common culture and common values.

According to the research association’s conceptual considerations, cultural participation is an independent dimension of social belonging conveyed on the one hand by education, but also by value orientations. Socioeconomic reporting is therefore concerned with the question whether in Germany ethnic communities are hardening and which consequences this could have for the differentiation of lifestyles and forms of participation.

In linguistic usage (in everyday life, in politics and partly in science too) minorities are defined by their origin, i.e. their country-specific migration background. However, according to migration research ethnic groups do not just evolve on the basis of their origin, but also on the basis of subjective belonging conveyed by attributions made by the majority society and the migrants’ self-images as well as by the formation of social networks and institutional structures.

The key figures developed in the first report in order to determine and identify the population with migration background will be used in the second report as socio-demographic background variables: Which importance do ethnic and other identifications and social affiliations have for people with migration background? Will German society become more varied or heterogeneous in cultural and ethnic terms?

However, we will first have to clarify conceptually what makes ethnic minorities a special group within the migrant population. For this purpose, one has to show how ethnic minorities in other migration societies are being marked off in migration policy and in statistics; it also has to be shown which insights international migration research has gathered concerning the consolidation of ethnic minorities. Subsequently, we will discuss suitable and internationally common indicators for the emergence and relevance of ethnically based social structures (e.g. multilingualism, self-identification, religious structures, ethnic organisations etc.) Finally, it has to be asked which of these indicators are currently available in Germany – in administrational statistics, population surveys or individual studies.


Results (German)
SOEB Arbeitspapier 2008-1: Karen Schönwälder; Helen Baykara-Krumme; Nadine Schmid: Ethnizität in der Zuwanderungsgesellschaft Deutschland: Zur Beobachtung ethnischer Identifizierungen, Loyalitäten und Gruppenbildungen. PDF
Ethnizitätskapitel - verwendete Surveys PDF
Tabelle Web 23.1: Minderjährige in Haushalten mit Migrationshintergrund PDF

Responsibility for this chapter

Karen Schönwälder, Helen Baykara-Krumme. Die Bearbeiterinnen sind Wissenschaftlerinnen am Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (WZB).


Soziologisches Forschungsinstitut an der Georg-August-Universität Göttingen (SOFI)