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Unemployment more important than immigration status for risk of divorce

The elevated risk of divorce among certain immigrant groups can be explained by socioeconomic factors. Stress due to immigration status does not seem to elevate the risk for divorce. These are some of the conclusions of the study Family Dynamics of Immigrants in Contemporary Sweden, that was presented at a research seminar on March 21 at the Institute for Futures Studies.

Kirk Scott is a researcher at the Institute for Futures Studies and associate professor at Lund University. He and Gunnar Andersson, professor of demography at Stockholm University have studied marriage and divorce among immigrants in Sweden between 1980 and 2007. Very few studies have previously dealt with the family dynamics of immigrants.

The study only includes immigrants who were single upon arrival to Sweden. The researchers studied whether the migrant status in itself would lead to an elevated risk of divorce (due to stress), to what extent children of immigrants adopts the marriage and divorce patterns of natives and if it matters who immigrants marry – native Swedes or other immigrants (from same or different countries as themselves)

The results show that the risk of marriage for women in most immigrant groups is close to the risk among natives. However, for women from the Middle East and Turkey the risk was significantly higher. In regards to both marriage and divorce, children to first generation immigrants adopt the marriage and divorce patterns of natives. For instance the data shows that the risk of divorce was elevated for first generation immigrants from the Horn of Africa, former Soviet Republics and Iran, but for their children it was more or less the same as for native Swedes. All in all there is great diversity among immigrants groups in regard to risk of divorce. Many groups have significantly lower risk than natives, and a few - immigrants from Poland, Iran, Ethiopia and Chile – have a higher risk. When checked for labor market status the elevated risk of divorce however disappeared. Thus the elevated risk among these groups can be explained by poor socioeconomic status rather than factors such as stress due to immigrant status or differences in values or culture.