Trendsetter Obama? The ascent of immigrant voters and politicians in European states

by Karen Schönwälder

Working Papers WP 09-03
June 2009
ISSN 2192-2357 (MMG Working Papers Print)

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This paper discusses key features of the political incorporation of immigrants into host society structures and institutions. It begins with theoretical considerations of the specifics of political, as distinct from e.g. economic or social, integration. A further section outlines trends in political participation arguing that a participation gap is likely to persist in the coming decades. Nevertheless, an increasing number of individuals with a migration background are appearing on the parliamentary stages of major European immigration countries. The paper identifies nationally specific constellations that enabled such careers and that shape the development of immigrant political elites in Britain, France, the Netherlands and Germany. Although we can record slow progress, equal representation is unlikely to be achieved without determined intervention.

Karen Schönwälder is Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity (MMG), Department for Socio-Cultural Diversity, Göttingen.