10 sep 2019

Migrant voices – How migrants view Sweden and their subjective integration

A new study on the values of migrants in Sweden has been completed by the Institute for Future Studies, under the leadership of Bi Puranen. This survey has been conducted within the framework of the Institute for Future Studies in Stockholm, with support from the Swedish Ministry of Employment, Government Offices and the counties of Värmland and Skåne. The purpose of the study is to gain a better understanding of how non-European migrants in Sweden view integration, as well as to understand which values and norms dominate among migrants depending on country of origin and other background factors.

A new study on the values of migrants in Sweden has been completed by the Institute for Future Studies, under the leadership of Bi Puranen. This survey has been conducted within the framework of the Institute for Future Studies in Stockholm, with support from the Swedish Ministry of Employment, Government Offices and the counties of Värmland and Skåne. The purpose of the study is to gain a better understanding of how non-European migrants in Sweden view integration, as well as to understand which values and norms dominate among migrants depending on country of origin and other background factors.

Full text of the report (in Swedish) is available here:


In the autumn of 2018, fieldwork was conducted in 54 municipalities in Sweden, where approximately 7 000 migrants had been selected from the Swedish population census. Of these, 6 516 participants completed the survey. They have responded to WVS questions translated to the languages most commonly spoken among migrants in Sweden: Arabic, Dari, Somali, Tigrinya and Turkish, in addition to Swedish and English. The respondents were selected from three groups: those who attend SFI (Swedish for Immigrants) courses, those who attend secondary school courses in Swedish for immigrants, and those who have received special invitations to participate. While many newly arrived migrants attend SFI, those who attend secondary school Swedish courses are younger than 25. Those who received special invitations had lived in Sweden for a longer period and tended to be older than the other participants. Thus, by drawing from different groups, we aimed to obtain a representative sample of Swedish migrants from different age groups.

The 54 municipalities were selected to be representative of Sweden as a whole. The selection was based on MAELG (Municipal Assemblies in European Local Governance), which is an EU project aiming to determine principles for stratifying municipalities by population size, region and economic structure. The Swedish stratification, on which the selection for this study was based, was made in 2007. A number of other factors have also been taken into account when selecting the municipalities included. These include the percentage of residents born in non-European countries (as of 2017-12-21), the level of unemployment, election results (party with the most voters in the municipality, county and parliament elections in 2018), type of municipality (urban or rural) in 2018, and results from Delmos’ (the delegation against segregation) analyses of socioeconomic background variables. Specifically, Delmos’ project has resulted in a list of 32 vulnerable municipalities. Of these, 15 have been included in this project. In addition to completing the MWVS questionnaire, 44 respondents also participated in in-depth interviews that were conducted in order to gain a more holistic view of migrants’ values. An additional 200 respondents have participated in semi-structured interviews in which they motivate their responses to the questions in the survey.

Chapter 1 of this report provides information about the study and the WVS. The chapter also contains reasons for why the study has been conducted, along with an overview of how Swedish migration policies have developed over the last decades. Chapter 2 contains the theoretical background on which the data analyses are based, as well as the main questions of interest. The chapter will focus on a number of hypotheses concerning the importance of emancipative values when migrants move from one cultural context to another. A theory regarding social cross-fertilisation is presented. This theory concerns both how one’s surroundings affect one’s emancipative values and how education increases one’s cognitive skills. According to the socialisation hypothesis, values are primarily acquired early in life. We discuss how values and social norms may also be affected in older age groups.

Chapter 3 contains a description of the study design, study population and inclusion criteria. In chapter 4, various so-called push and pull factors are described, aiming to explain why the migrants left their home countries and why they chose to migrate to Sweden. Chapter 5 contains results from questions about what the respondents value the most in life. This topic has been included in the WVS questionnaire since the beginning of the 1980s, and contains questions about the importance of family, work, individuality, religion, friends, spare time and politics. 

In chapter 6, the classic culture map from the WVS has been expanded, so that the values of the migrants included in this survey can be compared with the values that are dominant in Sweden and in the migrants’ countries of origin. This chapter focuses on secular values, which measure the respondents’ attitudes to authorities and religion. An index intended to capture the development from authoritarian to more democratic values is presented. The chapter also focuses on emancipative values. These include views on gender equality and individual choices, such as homosexuality, abortion and divorce. Separate maps of the sub-indices on equality, choice and trust are presented.

In chapter 7, subjective measures of integration are discussed. These measures are primarily based on three regression analyses. The first analysis concerns whether the respondents feel at home in Sweden. The second analysis is based on how connected the participants feel to Sweden and to the countries from which they have migrated. The third analysis is concerned with whether the migrants are proud of being Swedish. All three regression analyses include background variables such as gender, age, marital status, citizenship and religion. The concept of capital is used to structure the variables that have been included. Capital is defined as valuable resources that generate benefits for the individual and her or his family, as well as for the local community and society at large. Three categories of capital, referred to as models, are used. Human capital and economic capital are viewed as knowledge, abilities and characteristics the produce value. These are measured through formal education, language skills, work status, economic satisfaction and relative economic flexibility. Social capital concerns the individual’s social network. It includes the local society and the diaspora. Among the social capital variables of each regression analysis, we have included the respondents’ ability to embrace the laws and regulations in Sweden, as perceived by the migrant. It also includes the respondents’ experience of meeting Swedes, of participating in social movements, and of their feelings of human security and trust.

In addition to the variables included in the regression analyses, the results from two additional questions are included in chapter 7. The first of these questions concerns how the migrants think that their lives have developed since moving to Sweden compared with their expectations. The second question concerns their opportunities for making their own decisions in life. The chapter ends with a discussion on the relationship between human security, trust and tolerance, as well as how these factors influence subjective integration from a gender perspective. The difference between providing socially expected responses and what one truly believes will be discussed.

Chapter 8 focuses on honour-related oppression. A fourth regression analysis is presented on this topic, which is structured in the same way as the models previously described. The survey results reveal that the migrants’ values connected to this issue are among the ones that have changed the least since they moved to Sweden.

In chapter 9, we return to the research questions presented in chapter 2. Do the results from this study support the theory of social cross-fertilisation and the socialisation hypothesis? Does emancipation have the central role for integration that was initially suggested? What are the political and social implications of this survey? Finally, we reflect on what global migration means for welfare societies such as the Nordic ones.

The analyses presented in this report show that most of the 6 500 respondents feel at home in Sweden (57%), feel at home in the municipality where they live (55%), and would like to stay in the municipality where they currently live (59%). In general, they feel akin to both their countries of origin and to Sweden; on a scale ranging from 1 to 10, where 1 represents their home country and 10 represents Sweden, the mean was 7.3. Most respondents are proud of being Swedish (72%), while also being proud of coming from their home countries (77%). They generally perceive that their lives have improved since arriving in Sweden, compared with their situations in their countries of origin. The improvements concern economic conditions, housing, health services, sports and participation in voluntary organisations. They also report that they have better opportunities to pursue education in Sweden, and that they have more freedom of speech than in their home countries. They also report having greater freedom to make their own decisions and to make their voices heard (by voting, influencing others and expressing their opinions). However, their expectations concerning work opportunities have not been met.

In general, the respondents report that they are satisfied with their level of contact with their own ethnic groups in Sweden. They also report being able to practice their own religion, learn the Swedish language and learn about Swedish laws and regulations. On the other hand, their views on homosexuality, sex before marriage, divorce, abortions and prostitution stand in sharp contrast to those of the majority population in Sweden. A majority of both female and male respondents are in favour of gender equality, but many of the migrants also report that gender equality has “gone too far” in Sweden. About 65% of the respondents believe that it is true or partially true that it is a man’s responsibility to provide for his family. A third of the respondents also believe that the level of immigration to Sweden ought to decrease. Most of the respondents have positive views on technology. A majority of them use the Internet and social media on a daily basis. In general, they have a positive attitude towards the future.

By using the culture map, we have been able to analyse differences between how migrants from Iraq, Iran and Turkey respond compared with the majority population in these countries. In terms of emancipative values, there are substantial differences between the values of the migrants and the values that are dominant in the migrants’ countries of origin. When taking the number of years the migrants have spent in Sweden into account, one can conclude that emancipative values change to a relatively large extent.

The results from the regression analyses shows that respondents with a low level of education feel more at home in Sweden than those with a higher level of education. In addition, older respondents feel more at home than younger ones, and men feel more at home than women. A preliminary interpretation of these patterns is that first-generation migrants compare their current life situation with the conditions in their countries of origin. Those who have a low level of education or are older have generally experienced an improvement when moving to Sweden. The male migrants’ responsibility for supporting their families has to a large extent been assumed by the welfare system. For women, the changes are generally less dramatic; they continue to have a high level of responsibility for their households and children. The fact that the female respondents tend to have many children may also make it more difficult for them to work. These patterns need to be analysed more extensively, which is the next step in the analysis. This report is a general presentation of the survey and will be followed by scientific publications, as well as by a report containing regional analyses.

migranternasrost_lowres.pdf [Download count:281]


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