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Spatial assimilation? The development in immigrants’ residential career with duration of stay in Denmark


Many studies have shown that immigrants’ residential situation differs from that of natives and that factors other than housing needs and financial situation influence immigrants’ options and choices concerning housing and neighbourhood. Research has indicated that immigrants might have a stronger preference for renting due to insecurity about their future situation and that especially newly arrived immigrants tend to live in immigrant-dense, so-called multi-ethnic, neighbourhoods. However, the spatial assimilation theory claims that in the course of time immigrants will move to other kinds of housing and neighbourhoods. In this paper, the residential careers of immigrants in the first years after their arrival are examined and compared with Danes. The hypothesis tested is that over time the housing situation of immigrants gets closer to the comparable one for Danes. It is a longitudinal study based on data from 1985 to 2008 on non-Western immigrants in Denmark. The results show that non-Western immigrants steadily increased their presence in social housing and multi-ethnic neighbourhoods during their first 10 years of stay; then, their presence stagnates; and after 15 years, it declines. Part of the initial increase in the frequency of living in multi-ethnic neighbourhoods was not due to individual choices among immigrants but could be ascribed to the increasing number of multi-ethnic neighbourhoods over time. The study confirms spatial assimilation, also when controlling for degree of economic integration, but the change was not dramatic over the 24 years covered by the study.

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    A Danish survey among moving ethnic minorities by Andersen (2006b) showed that only seven per cent had trouble getting mortgage.

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    Among refugee countries are chosen: Iraq, Lebanon (Palestinians), Iran, Somalia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan.


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This paper was produced as part of the NODES project financed by NORFACE.

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Correspondence to Hans Skifter Andersen.

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Andersen, H.S. Spatial assimilation? The development in immigrants’ residential career with duration of stay in Denmark. J Hous and the Built Environ 31, 297–320 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10901-015-9459-0

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  • Immigrant settlement
  • Spatial assimilation
  • Segregation