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Beyond l’Auberge Espagnole: The Effect of Individual Mobility on the Formation of Intra-European Couples

Abstract

This paper focuses on intra-European partnership formation in three European countries: Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Intra‐European mobility has been actively promoted and stimulated by the European Commission (e.g., free movement of persons, the Erasmus student exchange program). One of the reasons for this promotion is that exchanges and relationships between Europeans of different descent are seen as a core indicator of the success of the European project. In this paper, we address the question to what extent intra-European mobility fosters partnerships between Europeans of different descent. Intra-European mobility can create opportunities both to meet partners from other European countries and to accumulate the necessary capital (economic, cultural, linguistic, mobility) to engage in a relationship with a foreign European. We use original data on European (binational) couples, collected in 2012 in the three countries (EUMARR survey), to study the choice of native men and women to engage in a relationship with either a foreign-born European partner or a partner from the own native country. We apply a broader life course perspective that captures migration and mobility experiences prior to the relationship as causal antecedents leading to an intra-European partnership. Results based on logistic regression models suggest that there is an individual effect of long stays abroad and short mobility experiences in (early) adulthood on having an intra-European partner (in comparison with a native partner).

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Notes

  1. 1.

    It is noteworthy that in discussions on free movement of EU citizens, the positively connoted term ‘mobility’ is often preferred over ‘migration,’ with the first also referring to a wider range of relocations including non-permanent types of migration such as seasonal work and cross-border commuting for employment (e.g., Favell 2008; Santacreu et al. 2009).

  2. 2.

    In that respect, a central point for our argumentation is the adoption of free movement for EU citizens in Switzerland, which has been in force since June 2002 (for more details cf. EDA 2014). This not only includes the freedom to move to and work in Switzerland (with only minor qualifications) but also easier access for those who commute across borders to work in Switzerland. In February 2014, a referendum of the Swiss electorate decided to restrict the freedom of movement also for EU citizens. The constitution demands that the referendum has to be implemented within three years (EDA 2014), but how it will be implemented has to be awaited.

  3. 3.

    These are marriages between partners born in different countries.

  4. 4.

    For more details on the respective surveys, see de Valk et al. (2013) for Belgium, Heering et al. (2013) for the Netherlands and Schroedter and Rössel (2013) for Switzerland.

  5. 5.

    The overall response rates are 32.2 % for Belgium, 37.1 % for the Netherlands and 40.5 % for Switzerland.

  6. 6.

    The vast majority of the foreign-born partners come from (other) EU-27 countries.

  7. 7.

    The question was followed by an annotation indicating that by ‘speaking a language’ we mean that one can have a long conversation with native speakers of that language.

  8. 8.

    Originally, we also included the number of travels additionally to the diversity of travels, but this variable did not add to the quality of the clusters.

  9. 9.

    For continuous variables, the marginal effect indicates to what extent the probability of Y = 1 increases if x increases one unit. For dichotomous variables, the marginal effect indicates the average effect of x at a discrete change from 0 to 1.

  10. 10.

    This result is rather unexpected as intermarriage is usually found to be more likely among native women than among native men (e.g. Kalmijn 1998, p. 412). An explanation might lie in the composition of our sample with respect to the involved nationalities as well as to the average high level of education and the urban context.

  11. 11.

    However, we did not account for the kind of the trips, which could matter, too. Vacations in resorts isolated from the everyday life of the native residents might be less influential than firsthand experiences.

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Acknowledgments

The paper is part of the framework of the European EUMARR project ‘Toward a European Society: Single Market, Binational Marriages, and Social Group Formation in Europe (EUMARR),’ supported by the European Science Foundation (EUI2010-04221). The Swiss EUMARR project was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), the Belgian EUMARR project was funded by the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) (09-ECRP-044, FWO finance number G.0994.10N), and the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) funded the project in the Netherlands. We are grateful to all the country research teams in the EUMARR project and would also like to thank the guest editors and the anonymous referees for their valuable comments that helped to improve the paper. All the remaining errors are ours.

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Schroedter, J.H., De Winter, T. & Koelet, S. Beyond l’Auberge Espagnole: The Effect of Individual Mobility on the Formation of Intra-European Couples. Eur J Population 31, 181–206 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10680-015-9343-3

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Keywords

  • Europeans
  • Mobility experiences
  • Partner choice
  • Opportunities
  • Mobility capital