More Swedes marry foreigners than second-generation immigrants
Swedes with two Swedish-born parents are more likely to marry someone born abroad than with second-generation immigrants. The level of education is also higher among those who marry someone born abroad, reveals a study of Swedish register data.
“The interesting question is what will happen in the future. Such changes must be studied over a long period of time,” says Nahikari Irastorza, senior researcher at Malmö University.
Together with Sayaka Osanami Törngren, she has written an article for the Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies for which they investigate whether Sweden has become, what they metaphorically liken to, a “melting pot”.
Intermarriage has been portrayed as the last step towards integration, but if you meet a foreigner abroad and get married – is that a sign of integration?
Sayaka Osanami Törngren
Since the 1980s, the composition of the population in Sweden has changed significantly: in 2016, 16 per cent of the 10 million residents were born abroad. Five per cent were born in Sweden had two foreign-born parents, while seven per cent had one Swedish-born and one foreign-born parent.
Despite the rapid growth of the non-white, foreign-born population and the number of mixed couples, relatively little research has been done on the subject in Sweden, according to the researchers.
The purpose of the study is to see if Sweden has become a more mixed country when it comes to marriage, and who marries whom. In 2014, more ethnic Swedes – that is, people with two parents born in Sweden – were married to someone born in another country than to a second-generation immigrant. In both cases predominantly with Europeans or people with roots in a European country.
Among the top five countries of origin are the Nordic countries, Germany, United Kingdom and countries in the former Yugoslavia. The exception outside of Europe is Thai women. After Finland, Thailand is the second most common country of origin for women who are married to Swedish men.
The pattern shows a certain acceptance of diversity but does not necessarily say that there is generally less discrimination or racism in society.
But if the list is expanded to ten countries, there are also spouses from Iran, China, and Chile.
Intermarriage is generally considered a sign of integration and assimilation. But both Irastorza and Osanami Törngren are critical of this simplistic approach.
“Intermarriage has been portrayed as the last step towards integration, but if you meet a foreigner abroad and get married – is that a sign of integration? Scholars who question the correlation between intermarriage and integration claim that we need to look at the broader context and personal situation of the minority spouse to be able to talk about integration. Why is an intra-married minority partner less integrated than an inter-married one if their participation in other spheres of society is similar? We need to look at more factors to be able to say that,” says Osanami Törngren.
The analysis shows that in 2014, eight per cent of Swedish men and six per cent of Swedish women were married to someone born abroad. More Swedish women than men marry second-generation immigrants: five per cent and three per cent respectively. The evidence also shows that the "foreign group" has a higher level of education. The researchers don't know why. One theory is that the spouses met, for example, while studying, traveling or working in another country.
The study thus shows that people who marry second-generation immigrants have a lower level of education. According to the researchers, a possible explanation could be that they live in similar areas and have similar jobs, and that this is where they meet.
“It may be a question of class, rather than a question of ethnicity. But Sweden is a country undergoing demographic change. Over time, there are more and more people who are not white or of Swedish origin who are Swedish-born,” says Osanami Törngren.
Irastorza adds: “The pattern shows a certain acceptance of diversity but does not necessarily say that there is generally less discrimination or racism in society.”
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