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Individual Life Chances in Social Context: A Longitudinal Multi-Methods Perspective on Social Constraints and Opportunities

Final Report Summary - LIFEINCON (Individual Life Chances in Social Context: A Longitudinal Multi-Methods Perspective on Social Constraints and Opportunities)

Our scientific work can be divided into four major areas: (1) integration and homogeneity; (2) identity, religion, and acculturation; (3) labor market outcomes; and (4) health and health behaviors.
The main results can be summarized in the following way: (1) we observe homogeneity in the friendship networks, not only for ethnicity, but also for e.g. gender and age. Friendship formation also seems to be influenced by shared friends, and by shared social and geographical spaces (such a being class mates, being members of the same civil society organizations, etc.). Regarding social capital, we have shown that a large part of the social capital of second generation immigrants are located outside of Sweden; we have also shown the relationships between social capital and finding jobs and housing respectively. (2) The identity of our respondents with an immigrant background in Iran or former Yugoslavia is influenced by the ethnic composition of their friendship networks. The more co-ethnic friends, the stronger identification respondents have with their parents’ home countries and cultures. However, we show that identification with Swedish culture and with Iranian or Yugoslavian culture does not correlate significantly. That means that many respondents share a strong sense of identity both with Sweden and their parents’ home country. For life chances such as health and unemployment, it does not seem to matter whether respondents identify with Sweden or their parents’ home countries: the stronger identity (regardless of sort), the more positive outcomes. In other papers, we show that religion still matters in a highly secular society, such as Sweden. Religion influences triadic closure, so that persons sharing religion are more likely to become friends. Still, when replicating Putnam’s study on religion and happiness, we find that neither religion nor religious networks influence happiness.
What influences happiness is rather the number of friends that are members in the same (secular) civil society organizations. (3) We identify strong network effects on youth unemployment. The more unemployed friends a person has, the higher is the risk that s/he will be unemployed herself.
This result does not seem to be driven by selection effects. Also social capital, measured by contacts to 40 strategically selected occupations, influence the risk of unemployment. In terms of ethnicity, we see that respondents with a background in former Yugoslavia is better integrated in Swedish networks than respondents with their background in Iran; but they gain very little from this information because they tend to form relations in particular with Swedes at the lower end of the class- and status system. (4) We have demonstrated the importance of social networks for health and health behaviors in a number of papers. The risk of smoking, for example, is much higher for those who have friends that smoke. Similarly, the chances for leading a healthy life (i.e. eating healthy food and exercising regularly) are much higher for those who have friends leading a health life. We also observe associations between social capital and depression. In an other paper, we show the association between being in an ethnic broker position and psycho-social stress.