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University of Copenhagen
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Minorities´ cultural background not important

European study shows that cultural background is not an important factor in the successful integration of minorities

Employment and education are the most important factors when it comes to the successful integration of young people with minority backgrounds in the EU. This is according to a new European research project.

The research initiative, called Up2youth focuses on integration in a number of EU member states.

As part of the project, University of Copenhagen researchers Sven Mørch and Torben Bechmann Jensen from the Department of Psychology compared how well young people with a minority background thrived, and how well Danish youngsters thrived in the workplace and in education.

Culture does not stand in the way

Findings from the project show that cultural factors are only secondary to factors such as education and connection to the labour market.

»Fundamentally, young people with minority backgrounds have the same problems as all other young people, and the conditions for achieving success in life are the same – the level of education of their parents and their parents’ careers. It is not cultural differences that cause poor integration, but not being able to get along in societal structures such as the school system,« says Sven Mørch.

It is therefore only possible to compare integration in different EU countries by examining the societal structures in these countries.

Feeling equal is the key

According to the findings high living standards in Denmark mean that poorer ethnic minority youths find it harder to integrate.

As the researchers point out, it would be easier for a young person with an ethnic minority background to integrate into Spanish society even if he or she were poor, than it would be in Denmark, as social inequality in Spain is greater.

In other words, this means that more ethnic Spaniards would be just as poor, making it easier for the ethnic minority youth to feel integrated.

»If you feel equal to those you associate with, then you feel that you are holding your own and doing well,« says Torben Bechmann Jensen.

Download the report »European Research on Youth – Supporting young people to participate fully in society« here.