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The school context determines how strongly minority students identify as German

New study published by Clemens Kroneberg and Hanno Kruse

Ethnic inequality in school access not only affects the educational and career paths of minority students, but also shapes their identities and friendships. The study conducted by Dr. Hanno Kruse and Professor Clemens Kroneberg at the UoC’s Institute of Sociology and Social Psychology was published in the American Journal of Sociology. It explored at which schools minority students tend to identify as Germans and how this affects the friendships they forge with peers belonging to the majority.

The study revealed pronounced local differences: In areas where minority adolescents rarely attend the Gymnasium, the most demanding school type in Germany’s three-tier secondary education system, those that do attend it are more likely to identify as German. In addition, this identification tends to go hand in hand with having more friends who belong to the majority. Those who feel less like Germans are less likely to be friends with majority group classmates. Social integration at the Gymnasium thus tends to be associated with identifying as German.

In areas where many minority adolescents attend Gymnasium schools, however, this coupling is absent: minority students exhibit no increased tendency to identify as German when attending a Gymnasium. In addition, identification as German is not relevant for the extent to which these students are socially accepted by their majority group classmates.

The study, which was conducted in the framework of Professor Kroneberg’s ERC Starting Grant project ‘Social Integration and Boundary Making in Adolescence’ (SOCIALBOND), for the first time combined administrative spatial data on all secondary schools in Germany with extensive survey data on identities and friendship networks at 144 selected schools.

Kroneberg remarked: ‘Where there is hardly any ethnic diversity at Gymnasium schools, the majority culture seems to dominate. Here, minority youths tend to identify strongly as German, which is also relevant for their social integration in the classroom. Other school types and Gymnasium schools in areas with greater educational equality, on the other hand, tend to be “schools of diversity” in which identifying as German is less important.’

However, identification as German is not only a question of the local context. The study also showed that Muslim students often have difficulties identifying as German – even if the local context is conducive to adopt such an identity. Kroneberg said: ‘Recent research shows that in Germany and Europe more generally, Muslims often feel that the native majority group does not perceive them as an integral part of society, and tends to mark them as foreign. This sort of boundary making is certainly a factor that makes identification more difficult. And this influence at the level of society seems to be so strong that it overrides the impact of the local school context that we observe for other groups.’

The today "More than a Sorting Machine: Ethnic Boundary Making in a Stratified School System" by Hanno Kruse and Clemens Kroneberg was published by American Journal of Sociology 

Webseite ERC-Projekt SOCIALBOND 

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