Settlement Trajectories of New Immigrants in Switzerland: A Multilevel Perspective on Location Choices and Internal Mobility

Jonathan Zufferey, University of Geneva

Previous research on migrant residential location has shown the relevance of gateway cities, and ethnic and socioeconomic neighbourhood characteristics on the first location choice. However, only few studies were able to follow individuals after their arrival and look at their internal relocation dynamics in a longitudinal perspective.

Based on the Swiss context, this research aims at identifying the location choices of new migrants and their internal mobility patterns, in relation with both individual and contextual factors. We use Swiss population registers to map residential trajectories of a cohort of the 82’000 foreigner who immigrated for the first time in Switzerland in 2010 and were still living in the country in 2014.

In a first part, we estimate in which context do new immigrant settle and how individual characteristics affect the destination choice. Using individual geocoded residence, we define the context according the characteristics of the k-nearest neighbours (origin, income, household composition, etc.). This approach allows analysing spatial concentration in a multi scalar way. Second, whereas most of the research has considered migration as a unique and definitive event, we look at the multiple internal migrations of the new immigrants and determine which factors are associated with an internal relocation within the 4 years under study. Third, considering the multiple internal movers, we will assess how individual, and contextual factors are related to the new environment choice.

This study contributes firstly to multiple internal mobility literature in assessing the settling dynamics of a cohort of foreigners. Secondly, it allows a better understanding on the location choices between migrant groups and socioeconomic status at the neighborhood and city levels. Thirdly, considering life cycle variables and socioeconomic characteristics, this approach will bring new insights into the life course paradigm of spatial assimilation.


Settlement trajectories of new immigrants in Switzerland:a multilevel perspective on location choices and internal mobility

 

Previous research on migrant residentiallocation has shown the relevance of gateway cities, and ethnic andsocioeconomic neighbourhood characteristics on the first location choice. Inthe United States, the first immigration location and the subsequent internalmovements have been discussed in regard with the spatial assimilation paradigm.In the European context, there is less research on this topic, and the spatialassimilation paradigm has been criticized. Firstly, because the level ofspatial segregation of new immigrants in poor areas is not as pronounced as inthe USA. Secondly because the mobility trajectories do not seem to be directly associatedwith economic and social integrations. However, only few studies were able tofollow individuals in a longitudinal perspective and understand the changes atthe individual level.

This paper aims at identifying which individualand contextual factors influence the internal mobility dynamics of migrants ina longitudinal perspective. More precisely, following a cohort of newimmigrants, we will show to what extend origin, reason of migration, income, andhousehold composition affect the first location choice and the internalsubsequent moves in the Swiss context.

Switzerland is a country of migration (today29% of the population is foreign born) and a good laboratory to study newmigrations since, in the recent years, highly qualified migrants became morenumerous than the low qualified. This dualization of the migrant labour market willchallenge the spatial assimilation paradigm, because a large part of thepopulation under study has, at arrival, a high level of economic integration.Moreover, there are no real ghettos in Switzerland that gather migrants,deprivation and discrimination.

For our analyses, we follow the 82’000foreign individuals who have arrived for the first time in Switzerland in 2010and settle in the country at least until December 2014. Using populationregisters linked with Swiss social assurance statistics (which gives foreveryone his or her annual income), our analysis relies on both individual andcontextual factors. Population registers include a household identifier and thegeocoordinates which allow the identification of household characteristics andthe exact localization of each individual living in Switzerland.

To understand the location geographies ofmigrants, we will use an innovative approach, which is not based usual administrativeneighbourhood units and its associated dissimilarities measures, but define neighbourhoodsaccording to its k-nearest neighbours. For each inhabited hectare of thecountry, we estimate the attributes (such as origin, income, householdcomposition, etc.) of the 1’000, 10’000 and 100’000 nearest neighbours. Playingwith K number of nearest neighbours allows to understand segregation dynamics atvarious scales, i.e. not only between major cities but also within the cities, atthe neighbourhood level.

The analyses comprise of 3 steps. First, weestimate in which context do new immigrant settle (neighbourhood and regionalcharacteristics). Figure 1 shows the distribution of arriving immigrants in thecountry i.e. the share of the cohort of new immigrants among the 10’000 nearestneighbours. It highlights the role of gateways cities but also the density ofnew immigrants in the alps where the tourism sector demand for low qualifiedwork force is high. Generalizing this approach to demographic, origin, andsocioeconomic characteristics of the whole population, we will be able to assessin which neighbourhoods and region do new immigrants move to and how origin,reason of migration, and income affect the choice of a residence area. Second,whereas most of the research has considered migration as a unique anddefinitive event, we look at the multiple internal migrations of the newimmigrants and, using regression modelling, we determine which factors areassociated with an internal relocation within the 4 years under study. Third, considering the multiple internal movers, we determine howthis cohort concentrate or disseminate. The goal is to establish the relationbetween individual factors and the new environment choice.

This studycontributes firstly to multiple internal mobility literature in assessing thesettling dynamics of a cohort of foreigners. Secondly, it allows a betterunderstanding on the location choices between migrant groups and socioeconomicstatus at the neighborhood and city levels. Thirdly, considering life cyclevariables and socioeconomic characteristics, this approach will bring newinsights into the life course paradigm of spatial assimilation.

Figure 1 : distribution of the cohort of newimmigrants in 2010 (group percentage among the 10''000 nearest neighbours)

Presented in Session 1220: Internal Migration and Urbanization