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Research project A Better Life for the Children of Exile: Intergenerational Adaptation of the Descendants of Refugees

A lot is known about the inequalities experienced by refugees, but much less is known about their children’s lives. This project will study the inequalities that are faced by the children and grandchildren of refugees living in Sweden.

The interdisciplinary project – A Better Life for the Children of Exile: Intergenerational Adaptation of the Descendants of Refugees (REFU-GEN) – is the first comprehensive holistic study of the descendants of refugees. It is funded with 1,4 million euros over five years and sets out to compare four domains of life for descendants of refugees: (1) their education, income and employment, (2) their family formation, (3) where and how they live, and (4) their health.

Unlike most countries, Sweden has both high quality register data that can be used for research and a significant number of descendants of refugees who can be studied longitudinally from birth to adulthood. The researchers will use cutting-edge research methods to analyze longitudinal data for the whole population of Sweden from 1968-2019. 

Project description

More than 2.5 million refugees have been granted residence in Europe over the last ten years and their long-run adaptation is a fundamental societal challenge. Adaptation can only be evaluated over the long-run by making intergenerational comparisons between immigrants and their descendants, yet research has almost entirely overlooked this topic for refugees, not least because most countries lack both data and significant numbers of descendants of refugees. 

This proposal represents the first comprehensive intergenerational study of the descendants of refugees. Our aim is to compare and contrast four domains of life: socio-economic status, health, family formation and residential context. We will use cutting-edge research methods to analyse longitudinal data for the whole population of Sweden from 1968-2019. Thanks to the unique combination of this comprehensive data, and Sweden’s long history as a refugee-receiving country, we will be able to make ground-breaking contributions: 

  • To reveal the diverse nature of intergenerational adaptation for the second-generation children of refugees, and establish to what extent this is determined by their parents’ adaptation
  • To uncover the mechanisms of intergenerational adaptation for the second-generation children of refugees
  • To establish the nature and extent of intergenerational adaptation beyond the second generation, for third-generation grandchildren of refugees 

Answers to these questions have the potential to generate large gains in understanding, and establish a holistic evidence base concerning the long-run adaptation of the descendants of refugees. In doing so, we will develop theories and evidence that can be shared with other European countries.

Project members

Project managers

Ben Wilson

Researcher, Docent

Department of Sociology
Ben Wilson. Photo: Leila Zoubir/Stockholm University

Members

Lisa Harber-Aschan

Researcher

Department of Sociology
Lisa Harber-Aschan

Elena Pupaza

Researcher

Department of Sociology
Elena Pupaza

Frankseco Junior Yorke

Phd student

Department of Sociology
Profile Image of Frankseco Yorke