Two landmark new studies in France are debunking myths about immigration at a time when xenophobic far-right discourses have a foundation. They show that the children of immigrants are increasingly integrating into French society, but some people of African and Asian origin face persistent discrimination.
Karima Simmou, a 20-year-old French-Moroccan student at the prestigious Sciences Po university in Paris, embodies this phenomenon.
She comes from a working-class family of eight children, with a mother who raised the family and a father who worked as a miner in western France. She was forced by her family to attend an elite school.
“As a child of immigrants, my parents, from their experience, told me that I needed to do more than others to be successful,” Simmou told The Associated Press.
Anti-discrimination advocates welcomed the new data released this month, which provides a rare insight because France follows a universal vision that does not discriminate between citizens according to ethnic groups.
Surveys published by the state statistics agency and the French state-run Demographic Research Institute, Ined, provide national data and statistics on the paths of immigrants to France, their children and – for the first time – their grandchildren. This is an updated and expanded version of a similar survey conducted 10 years ago. It included a representative sample of more than 27,000 people drawn from the national census who answered extensive questions on topics such as family life, income and religion from July 2019 to July 2019. November 2020.
One of the reports found that a large portion of the French population has immigrant ancestry – an estimated 32 percent of people under 60 – and that the descendants of immigrants are increasingly integrated into French society.
However, immigration is not spread evenly across France. Patrick Simon, one of Ined’s researchers, said that about 70 percent of the French population under the age of 60 has had no immigrant heritage in the past three generations, and ethnic diversity is highly dependent on where the French people live. .
The report cast aside the “great alternative,” a false claim propagated by some far-right figures that whites in France and other Western countries are being oppressed by non-immigrants. overflowing white skin.
Simon told the AP: “The immigrant population shares a deep connection with the population that has no direct immigrant background. In every family, people have a more or less direct connection to the job. immigration”.
Over generations, the immigrant legacy is diluted, the survey noted.
It found that 66% of those with at least one immigrant parent married people with no recent immigrant heritage, while nine out of 10 people were third-generation immigrant families. France has only one or two immigrant grandparents.
French immigration encompasses a wide variety of origins, somewhat reflecting the country’s colonial history. Younger generations with immigrant backgrounds tend to have North African or sub-Saharan roots while older generations tend to be of European ancestry. The survey said that 83% of under-18s in France had at least one immigrant parent who traced their origins to countries outside Europe, particularly Africa. In contrast, more than 90% of second-generation immigrants over the age of 60 have parents from Italy, Spain, Poland, Belgium, Germany or other European countries.
According to another report, the descendants of immigrants from Africa and Asia are better integrated in the French education system than their elders. The data shows that they are increasingly more educated than their parents, although many struggle to reach the same level of education as French without immigrant heritage.
And it’s also harder to get a job: 60% of non-Europeans have intermediate or advanced jobs, compared with 70% of French who have no direct immigrant relatives.
Researcher Mathieu Ichou has noted two possible reasons for the recruitment disparity.
He said: “A number of surveys, data and audit studies have demonstrated that recruitment is not favorable for minorities and they are discriminated against. France is quite bad in this regard compared to other countries. other Europe”.
In addition, Ichou said, “minorities tend to be underrepresented in elite French schools.”
Simmou joined Sciences Po thanks to a special program for students from disadvantaged areas. But she is well aware that her journey is exemplary and unusual.
Goundo Diawara, an education counselor and parent association member at working-class neighborhood schools with large immigrant communities, is a first-hand witness to how his school system is. France cannot eliminate inequality.
“In everyday life, we report problems like orientation struggles in schools in disadvantaged areas. Most of the time, these students don’t know these elite schools.” she told AP.
Still, she praised the two reports for providing “helpful resources.”
Although Simmou has attended one of France’s most prestigious universities for three years, she still feels a gap between herself and her classmates.
“During my second year at Sciences Po, people reminded me that I had immigrant backgrounds, trying to put me in a box, while I wanted to choose who I wanted to be,” she said.
But the 20-year-old hopes that her journey will inspire others.
“If we don’t set an example to hold on to, it will be difficult to broaden our horizons and envision a different future,” she said.