Andreas Wimmer and Thomas Soehl

American Journal of Sociology, July 2014


Which immigrant groups differ most from the cultural values held by mainstream society and why? The authors explore this question using data from the European Social Survey on the values held by almost 100,000 individuals associated with 305 immigrant groups and the native majorities of 23 countries. They test whether distant linguistic or religious origins (including in Islam), value differences that immigrants “import” from their home countries, the maintenance of transnational ties and thus diasporic cultures, or legal and social disadvantage in the country of settlement shape acculturation processes. They find that only legally or socially disadvantaged groups differ from mainstream values in significant ways. For first generation immigrants, this is because the values of their countries of origin diverge more from those of natives. Among children of disadvantaged immigrants, however, value heterodoxy emerges because acculturation processes are blocked and the values of the parent generation partially maintained. From the second generation onward, therefore, cultural values are endogenous to the formation and dissolution of social boundaries, rather than shaping these as an exogenous force.