Social Advancement through Education: On Intergenerational Negotiations of Upward Social Mobility Experiences in Migrant Families

Application: Dr. Minna-Kristiina Ruokonen-Engler

Project team: Dr. Minna-Kristiina Ruokonen-Engler, N.N.

Funding institution: German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft/DFG)

Funding period: 1 December 2020 to 30 November 2023

International comparisons demonstrate that the opportunities for upward social mobility are very low in Germany. However, some studies suggest that the children of labour migrants are more motivated to climb the social ladder than the non-migrant children from working class background do. As the upward social mobility induces a change of social status, societal position and transformation of the habitus, these experiences are assumed to lead to an alienation from the social milieu and the life-world of the respective family. Other studies, however, underline the importance of the family support in the context of migration. In consequence, the question arises how high educational achievements and social upward mobility dynamics affect migrant families. This research project explores from a qualitative, biographical perspective how such social upward mobility dynamics are individually processed and intergenerationally negotiated in migrant families. It examines how social mobility affects and possibly transforms intergenerational and gender relations, experiences of belonging and family support. The project aims at developing a theoretical model to explain the dynamics of the intergenerational and gendered negotiations of upward social mobility in migrant families. The research question reflects on current debates about the meaning of family networks and intergenerational social support in the context of social constraints like employment insecurity in an aging society. The study contributes to the theoretical discussions about the influence of migration and social mobility on the transformation of family, intergenerational and gender relations. Moreover, it adds to the further development of social mobility research from a subjective, biographical perspective that takes into account the underpinning social structural conditions.