Pôle de recherche national "LIVES"

From youth to adulthood


From youth to adulthood: Second-generation immigrants’ incorporation into Swiss society

IP2 research project within NCCR LIVES



This project deals with the participation into the Swiss society of young adults children of the Albanian-speaking immigrants from former Yugoslavia. It focuses on the relationship between life courses and vulnerability at the moment of the transition from youth to adulthood. More precisely, the aim is to understand which are the main resources of these young adults, how do they mobilize them, which are the main obstacles they meet and which are the main outcomes in the process of entering adult life. This is examined from three complementary perspectives: educational careers and participation into the labor market, family formation, and the experiences of citizenship.

In the short term, the main goal is to understand the transition to adulthood among children of more recent and vulnerable immigrant “ethnic” categories. We compare the children of Albanian-speaking immigrants from former Yugoslavia with the children of Swiss parents with a similar social background on the one hand and with the children of immigrants with other ethnic or national backgrounds on the other hand (Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Turkish, German, French). We concentrate on the first “ethnic” group as privileged case study in order to provide an in-depth description of factors playing a role in the transition to adulthood and in vulnerability in the Swiss context (parental background, legal status, identity roles, migration project, contacts with the country of origin, personal aspiration, informal and formal support, etc.).

In the longer term, the main goal is, using longitudinal data, to observe and to analyse the transitions to adult life and their outcomes among these populations and their families. The project will particularly measure the impact of different kind of resources (economic, social, legal, intergenerational, transnational, etc.) during the employment and family transitions.

Methods and preliminary results 

In order to answer the main research questions the team has  used a mixed methods strategy: we combined the analyses of quantitative data (secondary analysis of existing data as well as collection and analysis of original survey data) and newly produced qualitative data. Quantitative analyses have been useful for comparative purposes between children of migrants of different backgrounds and children of Swiss parents. Qualitative data concentrate on the population of interest for the project case study, the children of Albanian-speaking migrants from former Yugoslavia. The members of IP2, especially PhD students (Andrés Gomensoro, Andrés Guarín), have produced interesting results (papers, communications) using these different types of data.


Secondary analysis of data bases

Andrés Gomensoro used the Transition from School to Work database (TREE) and completed a sequential analysis of educational trajectories and of the educational situation of the second generation immigrants in Switzerland (Gomensoro 2014; Gomensoro 2013/12/10; Gomensoro 2014/06/19-20).

He identified 7 types of post-compulsory educational trajectories, 4 types passing through professional education and 3 passing through general education (matura and general schools). Firstly, the continuous professional education trajectory is characterized by a fast insertion in professional education and a fast insertion in the labor market. Secondly, the delayed professional education trajectory is characterized by a year of transitory solution just after the end of compulsory education and then by a professional education (with some problems of insertion in the labor market for about 20% of members of this type). Thirdly, the problematic professional education trajectory is characterized by a fast insertion in VET, by a high rate of non-graduates (about 1 of 4) and by a low rate of insertion in the labor market (about 1 of 2) after seven years. Fourthly, the climber education trajectory is characterized by a high rate of professional baccalaureate and then by a continuation in a tertiary education (universities or universities of applied sciences). The three last types are  characterized by the frequentation of general education in the secondary education level. Andrés Gomensoro demonstrated that the second generation from Former Yugoslavia, Turkey and Portugal are over represented in the second and third types of post-compulsory educational trajectory and under-represented in the three types passing through general education. Thus, those populations face unequal and vulnerable situations in the Swiss educational system. Some complementary analysis showed that those differences are correlated to the socio-economic status of ethnic groups in Switzerland (Gomensoro and Bolzman 2015). But the unequal distribution inside this typology among ethnic origins is even more related to the tracking at the end of the compulsory education (Gomensoro 2014; Gomensoro 2014/06/19-20). The tracking doesn’t only determine the post-compulsory educational opportunities; it also limits individual educational aspirations.

Andres Guarin used data from the Swiss Labour Force Survey (SLFS) to analyse labour labor market transition of the children of migrants and their counterpart born from Swiss parents [1]. He used also data from Swiss Household Panel (SHP) to analyse the relation between partnership formation and employment transition among children of immigrants in Switzerland. More precisely, he looks at the processes of partnership formation (marriage, cohabitation-unmarried) and aim to understand if this partnership formation can play a role in the professional status (employed-unemployed, occupational attainment) of children of immigrants.

The SLFS analysis shows that the risk of being unemployed or having a low occupational attainment varies significantly according to the origin of parents Thus, although it can be observed a general enhancement of the employment situation of second-generation migrants [2] compared to their parents, the second-generation from Kosovo keep suffering of strong difficulties when accessing the labour market. Furthermore, the analysis put into evidence that the educational level of the father plays a significant role concerning employment vulnerabilities of their children. And this impact is especially strong when children have a low educational level (Guarín and Rousseaux, 2014).

The SHP preliminary results show that there exist differences in partner formation and professional work between native born and children of immigrants. The time of transition to first union and cohabitation (married versus unmarried) are relatively different for both populations: children of immigrants experience this event (cohabitation) earlier in their life course (Guarin & Bernardi, 2014/3; 2014/5; 2016);   Guarin, De Valk & Bernardi (2014/6).


Qualitative data collection and analysis

Qualitative field work took place in the cantons of Geneva, Vaud and Zurich:  70 interviews with Albanian speaking “second generation” children of immigrants and 40 interviews with first generation Albanian speaking parents have been done.  Interviews with children have been recorded in German and French and transcribed in these languages; interviews with parents have been also recorded and translated/transcribed from Albanian to German or French.  Andrés Gomensoro was strongly engaged in the field work with the second generation in the French speaking part of Switzerland.   With respect to data from the German Speaking part, a methodological internal report has been produced by our partners from SFM (Truong and Fibbi, 2013).

Andrés Gomensoro and Claudio Bolzman have been involved with the analysis of the interviews, comparing and linking them with quantitative results.

Andrés Gomensoro and Claudio Bolzman (submitted) explore in detail how the socio-economic status of parents impact on educational trajectories through “hidden mechanisms” inside the educational system but also inside families. They show that the socio-economic status at the end of the compulsory education is “institutionalized” in different tracks that define, three years later, the educational opportunities. This tracking has also a huge impact on the individual educational aspirations (Gomensoro 2014).  They also show that some young people experienced discrimination during schooling years but that this discrimination doesn’t necessarily have a negative impact on educational outcomes. It’s even sometimes a strong motivating factor for them. Parental educational expectations are linked to the socio-economic status, but also that parental educational expectations are sometimes not taken into account by the children (Bolzman, 2013/12). Finally, they show that the lack of family funding, the poor living and heath conditions of family members are factors that influence negatively, and that in some rare cases determine, the educational path.

In February 2014, Andrés Gomensoro (2014/02/13-14) presented two study cases of young people that were not supposed to be at the university but that succeeded to reach it. Those two cases demonstrated that even when someone cumulates negative factors as for example a low socio-economic status, a lack of French skills at the beginning of schooling, discrimination (emanating from teachers or from pairs), a lack of concrete parental support, a selection in the lowest tracks at the end of compulsory education, juridical discrimination when looking for an apprenticeship (etc.), some people can mobilize individual and social resources (as for example high motivation to reach educational aspirations, to mobilize support from pairs, teachers and social workers, etc.) to succeed to reach the university level. Similar results are found by our partners for the interviewed in the German speaking part of Switzerland (Fibbi and Truong, 2014).

Claudio Bolzman and Andres Gomensoro (2014/02) have also explored how intergenerational relations and gender influence partner formation strategies among second generation men and women.  Four main strategies appear to predominate:  traditional (accepting family framework), compromise (negotiation with parents), emancipation (following individual feelings and decisions) and avoidance (postponing decisions of partnership in order to avoid conflicts with parents). 


Methodological book

IP2 members are concluding a  book on “Second Generation transition to adulthood and intergenerational relations” Exploring Methodological Issues and Innovations” edited by IP2 senior researchers Claudio Bolzman, Laura Bernardi and Jean- Marie Le Goff (Springer LIVES Collection). The book provides a comprehensive outlook on methodological issues (quantitative and qualitative) related to the study of the second generation and intergenerational relations in a life course perspective. Bringing together a wide range of authors from different countries, disciplines and approaches in the social sciences, the book shows that the study of second generations and their families can by enriched by crossing and confronting methodological approaches and adopting a life course perspectives.  Three Ph. D. students are contributing with chapters to this collective book (Gomensoro et Burgos, 2014;  Guarin et Rousseau, 2014), together with a number of international scholars across Europe.. The book is planned to be presented by the Spring 2015.


Main publications and communications

  • Bernardi, Laura (2011). A Mixed-Methods Social Networks Study Design for Research on Transnational Families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 73(4), 788 - 803.
  • Bolzman, Claudio  (2011), « Access to employment for children of immigrants : an exploratory review of several explanatory factors »  in Revue suisse de travail social, 11, 2, 64-79.
  • Bolzman Claudio and Gomensoro Andrés  (2011) « Schulkinder von Familien aus der Türkei » in Ideli M., Suter Reich V., Kieser H.L. (éd.). Neue Menschen-landschaften. Migration Türkei-Schweiz 1961-2011, Zürich, Chronos Verlag, 283-305.
  • Bolzman, Claudio (2014), « Couples binationaux devenus parents. Questions de filiation et de transmission aux enfants », Terra Cognita. N°24, 38-40.
  • Bolzman, Claudio  « Migrations, ressources et vulnerabilités : quelles spécificités ? », Conférence  dans le cadre de  Planète Recherche, éésp, le  5 novembre 2013.
  • Bolzman, Claudio  « Les relations intergénérationnelles chez les immigrants en Suisse. L’exemple des Albanophones », Communication au  XIV Congrès  international de l’Association international pour la recherche interculturelle » (ARIC),  Université Mohamed V, Souissi (Rabat),  9-13 décembre 2013.
  • Bolzman, Claudio  « Le droit : rempart contre la vulnérabilité ou producteur de celle-ci ? Etudes de cas sur les migrations en Suisse », Conférence dans le cadre des Midis de la recherche, Hets,  le 3 juin 2014.
  • Bolzman, Claudio , « Migration, resources and vulnerability : which challenges for social work ? », Conference to 5th Summer University in Social Work, on « Vulnerability, Empowerment and Social Work »,  éésp, Lausanne June 30th-July 11th 2014.
  • Bolzman, Claudio and Andrés Gomensoro, Transition vers la vie adulte et relations intergénérationnelles dans les familles albanophones en Suisse. Presentation at Journée d’étude  LIVES IP6 « Migrations, identités et contextes », Université de Fribourg, 2014/02/03.
  • Fibbi, Rosita and Jasmine Truong (2014),  Parental involvement and educational success in Kosovar families in Switzerland,  SFM, University of Neuchâtel, IP2 LIVES, internal paper, 24 p.
  • Gomensoro, Andrés (2014) Sélection précoce, objectifs de formation et réussite scolaire individuelle. Le cas des descendants d'immigrés d'ex-Yougoslavie en Suisse. Relief, 48, pp.59-66.
  • Gomensoro, Andrés, Trajectoires de formation post-obligatoire de jeunes issus de familles migrantes précaires. Expert activity at the Office pour l'orientation, la formation professionnelle et continue, 2013/12/10.
  • Gomensoro, Andrés,  Les trajectoires de formation des descendants d’immigrés albanophones en Suisse. Presentation at congress : « Le travail social au prisme de la recherche », HES-SO Fribourg, 2014/01/31.
  • Gomensoro, Andrés, “I’m not supposed to be at the University”. Resources and educational trajectories that lead children of Albanian speaking immigrants into the tertiary education level. Presentation at Doctoriales 2014. University of Lausanne, 2014/02/13-14.
  • Gomensoro, Andrés, Trajectoires et réussite scolaire. Le cas des descendants d'immigrés en Suisse.  Presentation at the congress « 21ème journées du longitudinal: "Réussite scolaire, réussite professionnelle, l’apport des données longitudinales" », 2014/06/19-20.
  • Gomensoro, Andrés and Raul Burgos (à paraître 2015) Combining in-depth biographical interviews with the LIVES calendar in the study of life course of children of immigrants. In. Bolzman, Bernardi, Le Goff. Methodological challenges in studying youth issued of migrant families. Springer.
  • Gomensoro, Andrés and Claudio Bolzman (submitted, à paraître 2015) The effect of socio-economic status of ethnic groups on educational inequalities in Switzerland: which “hidden” mechanisms?, Italian International Journal of Sociology of Education.
  • Guarin, Andrés and Emmanuelle Rousseaux, (à paraître 2014 ). Unemployment Risk and Occupational Attainment Among the Second generation Immigrants in Switzerland. Lausanne LIVES, Methodological challenges in studying youth  issued of migrant families. Springer. 
  • Guarin,  Andrés and  Laura Bernardi (2014, Mars). First union Formation among Immigrants and their Descendants: The Swiss Case. Conference presentation at NIDI institute, Den Haag.
  • Guarin, Andrés, Helga  De Valk  and Laura Bernardi (2014, Juin). Marital Status and Work Status among Second Generation Immigrants in Switzerland. Conference presentation at EPC 2014, Budapest.
  • Guarin,  Andrés (2014), Report for the Famillies&Societies on the project: Union Formation Among Immigrants and Their Descendants in Switzerland.
  • Guarin,  Andrés and  Laura Bernardi (2014, Mai). First union Formation among Immigrants and their Descendants: The Swiss Case. Conference presentation at working progress LINES seminary, Lausanne.
  • Le Goff jean-Marie (2013). Analyse de prise de contact dans les pilotes secondos et PSM3. Internal note. Lives, Lausanne.
  • Truong Jasmine and Rosita Fibbi (2013), Methodological Report. Zurich Fieldwork, Lives IP2, Internal paper.


[1] For the quantitative data, we compare Albanian-speaking second generation from former Yugoslavia (or “former Yugoslavians” according to the possibilities of data bases) to second generation from other origins (Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, German, French) and to Swiss born.

[2] In this analysis the variable “second generations” includes children of immigrants being born in Switzerland or having moved to Switzerland before the age of 10 and the place of birth of parents (both parents being born in the same country).