CMS Dialogue: Religion and Immigrant Occupational Attainment in the US, Canada, and Western Europe

Connor & Koenig - Bridges and Barriers 03.07.13

On Friday, April 26, 2013, the Center for Migration Studies (CMS) hosted a dialogue on a new study exploring the role of religion on the integration of immigrants.  The study, entitled, “Bridges and Barriers: Religion and Immigrant Occupational Attainment across Integration Contexts,” is co-authored by Phillip Connor, Research Associate for The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, and Matthias Koenig, Professor of Sociology and Sociology in Religion at the University of Göttingen and Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity.  The article was recently published in the Spring 2013 edition of the International Migration Review.

This study is the first to measure how religion shapes the economic experience of immigrants among different countries and regions of reception. Comparing the United States, Canada and Western Europe, the authors present two mechanisms through which religion can affect the economic integration among first and second generation immigrants: religious affiliation and religious participation.

Two broad conclusions emerge from the empirical analysis of survey data on occupational attainment in these different contexts: (1) There is only limited support for the view that immigrants belonging to a minority religious group are occupationally penalized in societies where sharp boundaries separate national religious traditions and new minority religions are brought by immigrants (such as Western Europe and to a lesser extent, Canada); and, (2) by contrast, findings support the perspective that high levels of religious participation are related to high occupational attainment in contexts where,  society is religiously active (such as the US and, to a lesser extent, Canada).  In the latter case, religious participation may act as a ‘bridge’ to integration in the host society.

Phillip Connor, the featured speaker, further detailed these findings and explained the use of data from the US General Social Survey, the Canadian Ethnic Diversity Survey, and the European Social Survey to analyze effects of religious affiliation and participation on occupational attainment among first and second generation immigrants.  Josh DeWind, Director of the Migration Program and the Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship (DPDF) Programs at the Social Science Research Council, offered a short response.  Ellen Percy Kraly, Editor of the International Migration Review and Professor of Geography at Colgate University, moderated the session.