Youth Transitions of Descendants of Turkish Immigrants

  • Elif Keskiner
Open Access
Part of the IMISCOE Research Series book series (IMIS)


This open access book studies the youth transitions of descendants of migrants from Turkey living in Amsterdam and Strasbourg. It pursues a comparative mixed-methods research design and contributes to the theoretical discussions in youth sociology and second-generation research. The introductory chapter begins the book with a critical review of the literature on the Turkish second generation and youth transitions, illustrating how the book fills the gap in both fields. The comparative design is presented showing how it reveals the distinctive roles of macro-institutional structures in the youth transitions of descendants of Turkish migrants, while the mixed-methods approach is outlined to show how it marries the strengths of quantitative and qualitative research, conveying a profound understanding of the youth transition experience. The theoretical tools of the study section outlines the social structures such as social class, ethnicity and gender in shaping the youth transition experience. Special attention is attributed to the capital theory of Bourdieu and how it is applied in the book to make sense of the forms of capital and resources that were critical in the youth transitions of descendants of Turkish migrants.

Writing this, I am sitting at a table in the library of a tertiary vocational school in Zwolle, a medium size Dutch city. I am surrounded by the descendants of immigrants from Turkey. They have no idea I am writing about them, much less that I understand, and admire, how they are talking in a creative half-Turkish half-Dutch argot. I catch their discussions, which are about everything ranging from the exams next week to the annoying boss at a bijbaan1; from worries about finding an apprenticeship to Turkish TV heartthrob Kıvanç Tatlıtuğ’s acting in last night’s episode; from the latest iPhone features to plans for next summer’s holiday in Istanbul; plus a whole lot of gossip about friends in between. Listening in on these conversions, I cannot help but wonder why doubts about these young people’s integration dominate current public debates rather than questions about their daily realities: the obstacles that they encounter at school and on the labour market; how they navigate these barriers and how they negotiate the multiple frames of references that enrich their lives. This book seeks to answer these questions, which have indisputable present-day urgency though actually began being asked decades ago.

In 1980, Gündüz Vassaf, a prominent Turkish scholar of psychology, spent a sabbatical in Europe, first in the Netherlands and then in Germany and conducted one of the first studies on the children of immigrants, the findings of which he published in the book Daha Sesimizi Duyuramadık: Avrupa’daki Türk Işçi Çocukları.2 The title was inspired by something a descendant of a Turkish immigrant told him: “We are not a lost generation, nor are we stuck in between; we just haven’t had our voices heard.” Vassaf called attention to the problems that children of Turkish immigrants were facing and warned that negligence by both host and home countries would have serious consequences for the futures of these individuals. His study was unique in highlighting the perspectives of immigrants and their children rather than the worries of the host countries or home societies.

Nearly 40 years later, the descendants of immigrants are at the forefront of public debate, garnering attention not only in social science research, but also in government policies and the media. However, in many Western European countries, the public discourse reflects a population largely deaf and blind to the concerns and struggles of these young people, still seeking to apportion blame for their perceived lack of integration. Media reports on integration emphasize the lower educational attainment and higher unemployment rates among the descendants of immigrants, and even overgeneralize some groups’ involvement in criminal activities. Negative labels such as ‘immigrant’, ‘ethnic’, ‘allochtoon’ and ‘foreign’ cast these youth as outsiders, even when they are native-born citizens of their host countries. Considered in this light, the debate around integration appears to mask a systemic unwillingness and/or inability to meet the needs of immigrants and their descendants and embrace their realities; instead, it superficially frames observed inequalities in terms of these groups’ own attitudes or deficiencies. With Islamophobia recently dominating public and political discourses, descendants of immigrants from Muslim-majority countries, such as Turkey, also suffer as subjects of suspicion. This has been amplified in the populist discourse of extreme right-wing parties, which have regained political traction in Europe in recent years.

As highlighted by Crul and Schneider (2010), the descendants of immigrants are the new natives of the cities into which they are born and raised. Their numbers are growing and they are transforming the mainstream constitutions of a super-diverse metropolitan world (p. 1257). During the last two decades, considerable research has examined the social and institutional realities faced by the children of post-war immigrants born and raised in various European countries and the United States (Kasinitz et al. 2008; Levitt 2009; Crul et al. 2012; Crul and Mollenkopf 2012). Among these groups, the native-born descendants of Turkish immigrants have been receiving plenty of attention since the early 2000s due to their widespread presence in various European countries (Caglar 1998; Kaya and Kentel 2005; Soysal 2001; Kastoryano 2002; Crul and Vermeulen 2003). Today, Turkish immigrants and their descendants are one of the largest ethnic minorities in Western Europe, and comprise a population of up to eight million people.

From the outset, the case of Turkish migrants has been considered ideal for cross-country comparison as guest-worker migration to various locations occurred around the same time (Crul and Vermeulen 2003). Pioneering comparisons included Kaya and Kentel (2005) who contrasted the integration pathways of Turkish migrants and their descendants in France and Germany and uncovered the role of different citizenship regimes and the host society’s institutional structures in shaping the integration outcomes. Another classical study by Kastoryano (2002) dissects the dynamics between state policies in France and Germany and immigrants’ demands, focusing on immigrants of North African origin in France and Turkish immigrants in Germany. Such comparative studies began to highlight the role of state policies and express the identity and recognition concerns of Turkish immigrants across different settings.

Turkish second-generation youth have also become an interesting focus group for social stratification research regarding their experiences in education and labour market settings. In general Turkish second-generation youth have been found to perform worse than their peers with native-born parents, mostly due to their parents’ lower education levels. Nevertheless their performance varied across distinct institutional settings in Europe (Crul and Vermeulen 2003). Heath et al. (2008) showed that native-born descendants of Turkish immigrants in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany performed worse in terms of educational outcomes compared to their peers with native-born parents; however, in the Netherlands and Germany, they attributed this to parental (lower) social class. Schnell (2012) provided a systemic explanation and showed that this group performed better in more comprehensive systems, such as those in France and Sweden, than in stratified systems, such as those in Germany and the Netherlands. Regarding meso-level explanations, Rezai and her colleagues (2015) disclosed the role played by parents and significant others in educational mobility and showed how parents (despite lower education levels) could provide different forms of support which turned out to be influential. Keskiner (2015) displayed that parents deployed varying strategies to influence their children’s education across distinct education systems; in countries like the Netherlands where their impact is restricted by the system, they could exert less influence on their children’s tracking choices. In Switzerland, Schnell and Fibbi (2016) found that young adults of Turkish and Western Balkan origin were more likely than their peers of native origin to be upwardly mobile in the education system (as opposed to starting high) and that parental monitoring and family cohesion played a significant role in regard to upward mobility.

It has also been shown that descendants of Turkish immigrants are affected by poorer labour market progression and higher rates of unemployment even when education levels have been controlled for in France (Simon 2003), Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, Switzerland and Austria (Lessard-Philipps et al. 2012). These trends have persisted for many years in various countries. Using data from the first wave of the ‘Netherlands Longitudinal Life-Course Study’ (2009–2010), Gracia et al. (2016) tested the ethnic penalty argument for second-generation Turks and Moroccans in the Netherlands, taking into consideration not only schooling but also skills and social origins and found that ethnic penalties persist for Turkish second-generation migrants. For example, women of Turkish origin had a higher likelihood of being unemployed even after controlling for education, social origin and skills (ibid). Analyzing two waves of panel data, including a more recent wave, Witteveen and Alba (2018) have shown an increasing employment disadvantage for second-generation Turks and Moroccans and persisting ethnic penalties in hiring processes: after controlling for education background and demographics they found that the youngest cohorts of the second generation were significantly less likely to find employment compared to their peers with native-born parents. Hence the most recent studies showed that difficulties in finding employment after school continue to persist.

Another strand of emerging research examines the “successful” group within the Turkish second generation, thereby emphasizing that the entire group cannot be categorised as disadvantaged (Crul et al. 2017; Waldring et al. 2015; Schneider and Lang 2014; Keskiner and Crul 2017; Vermeulen and Keskiner 2017). Studies pursuing a more qualitative approach have identified the roles of institutional structures in education and the labour market in shaping the upward mobility of descendants of Turkish immigrants (Keskiner and Crul 2017; Konyali 2017). While successful in uncovering the mechanisms to achieve higher education levels, this stream of research does not account for those individuals who do not achieve upward mobility, nor the type of support mechanisms available (or not) to them. A more diverse sample would be needed to uncover the mechanisms that lead to different trajectories through and out of education, as well as into and in the labour market.

My own contribution to this debate is to provide a comparative analysis on the youth transitions of descendants of migrants. Previous studies have shown the relevance of cross-country comparisons in revealing the roles played by institutional structures, but these have mostly relied on survey data. Combining quantitative methods with qualitative research can help to detect the processes and mechanisms that can explain these general statistical trends. Previously, young people of Turkish origin have been studied within the cultural domain, for example hip-hop culture in Berlin has received considerable attention (Caglar 1998; Soysal 2001). Soysal’s study shows that while the general public is wallowing in senseless integration concerns, young people of Turkish origin have become active participants and producers of youth culture in Berlin (2001). As inhabitants of Berlin, they “contribute to the constitution of the city as a diverse, cosmopolitan metropolis in the new Europe” (Soysal 2001, 22). Such studies are crucial to giving a voice to the experiences of second-generation youth. In a more recent study Celik (2015) studied reinforced ethnic identity when faced with perceived discrimination and the experience of “systematic devaluation of ethnic culture”(p. 13). His study is valuable in making a connection between social disadvantage in education and the labour market and ethnic identification and in showing how the two are connected. The negative experiences of Turkish-origin youth in Germany and the effect of reactive ethnicity is very much in line with the recent trends on educational and labour market disadvantage.

To fill an existing gap in research on the education and labour market experiences of the Turkish second generation,3 I cover a more diverse sample and use mixed methods. Studies on youth transition put young people front and centre. The analyses emanate from the young people themselves, exploring reality from their perspective and bringing to light their relationships with society at large and its structures. Pursuing an outcome-oriented approach, social stratification research illustrates the disadvantaged position held, in general, by descendants of Turkish immigrants; youth studies concentrate on the processes leading up to such outcomes. As such, youth studies help generate self-serving research tools and theoretical concepts for understanding the complex lives of young people today.

1.1 Youth Transitions

Current labour market conditions have caused youth unemployment to skyrocket and insecurities in the labour market careers to intensify. The effects have been hardest on young people who are about to leave school and enter the labour market (Furlong 2009). This transition marks a critical point in the lives of young people. Traditionally, the transition has been considered to be the period “from the completion of full time education to entering into the labour market with a full-time job” (Mueller and Shavit 1998). In the last two decades, youth studies have promoted a new take on ‘transition’, moving away from its conceptualization as a single point in an individual’s biography towards an analysis of the dynamic interplay between multiple transitions that take place simultaneously (du Bois-Reymond 2009a). Today, young people leave their parental home and have children before getting married; they begin working while still at school and may go back to school after having worked for some time and started a family. There is no longer a clear-cut boundary or temporal linearity between work and study (du Bois-Reymond 1998; Wyn and Dwyer 1999). Accordingly, youth sociologists argue that these transitions have become prolonged and more complex (Furlong 2009). One major reason cited for this prolongation is the rising demand for credentials to satisfy the ‘knowledge economy’ of most Western European countries, compelling individuals to stay in school for longer and delaying their labour market entry (Bradley and Devadason 2008; du Bois-Reymond 1998).

The prolongation of education not only postpones entry into the labour market, but also leads to more complex transitions. The conceptualization of the “transition point” is becoming more and more blurred as people start jobs while still pursuing an education or return to school after having begun to work (Heinz 2009; Wyn and Dwyer 1999). Prolonged and complex transitions also affect perceptions of life course and age. The point of labour market entrance sways conventions about the acceptable age to be considered independent: in most Western European countries, young people are also delaying getting married and having children (Willoughby et al. 2015). Heinz (2009) wrote that “borders between all life phases are becoming fuzzy”; that age as a social marker is losing its significance and that transitions between certain life courses are less age-dependent and show greater variation across individuals, groups and countries.

Many researchers acknowledge the “changing” nature of youth transitions (Bradley and Devadason 2008; du Bois-Reymond 2009b; Furlong 2009; Heinz 2009). Yet, there remains room for discussion about the implications and consequences of these transformations on the lives of young people and whether they apply to all social classes and backgrounds. Tensions tend to arise around the interplay between structure and agency during transitions. Theories forwarded by Beck (1992) and Giddens (1991) have been influential in spurring debate on the individualization of youth transitions (du Bois-Reymond 1998; Evans and Furlong 1996; Furlong 1998). Beck (1992, 2007) argued that insecure labour market conditions, such as unemployment and precarious job contracts, generate a “risk society” in which people must “navigate” their biographies: this produces greater individualization in life practices and diminishes the significance of, and attachment to, forms of collectivity, such as social class, gender, marriage and family. In a similar vein, Giddens (1991: 72) observed that individuals are increasingly forced to be conscious of who they are, what they want and what they feel, thus becoming ‘the authors of their own autobiographies’: this renders them responsible for a “reflexive” process of building “themselves”. In life course studies, a life phase called “emerging adulthood” (Arnett and Tanner 2006) has gained prominence. This identifies a developmental stage between adolescence and adulthood and acknowledges that young people nowadays have more agency in navigating their biographies regardless of their social class, gender or ethnicity.

Such arguments that attribute greater agency to young people have their critics. Various scholars argue that today’s youth transitions are due to structural transformations, notably post-industrial economies in Western Europe, the booming service economy and growing neoliberal practices in both education and the labour market—none of which necessarily result in increased agency (Furlong 2009). Furlong and Cartmel (1997) found that while the rising role of agency has become more evident in youth discourses, inequalities along the lines of social class, gender and age have persisted. Studying early labour market careers in Bristol, Bradley and Devadason (2008) posited that non-traditional transitions were the result of economic insecurities, rather than young people’s own decisions to “navigate” their biographies in line with Beck (1992). Last but not least, Côté and Bynner (2008) and Côté (2014a, b) argued that the phenomenon of prolongation has been around longer than many people might think, and that it varies across countries and groups. Lacking empirical proof to make generalizations, they therefore oppose “emerging adulthood” as a universally applicable label. Citing evidence from Canada, Côté and Bynner (2008) emphasize the influence of structural changes, particularly technological transformations and economic globalization. They note that the responses to these changes is neither uniform nor universal, but varies according to social class and local conditions. While some individuals prolong their transitions into higher education, others obtain few educational qualifications and leave school at an early age to start work. Although a higher sense of risk and uncertainty has intensified young people’s reliance on social support mechanisms and their families, the extent to which they do so varies across settings. Côté (2014a, b) has called for a perspective based on the “‘political economy of youth” that pays more attention to material conditions than to subjectivities. He argues that young people are faced with considerably reduced earning power in comparison to adults and have become disadvantaged “as a class”. He urges researchers to pay attention to the structural conditions of youth transition and the differences among this group along the class, ethnicity and gender lines that continue to shape their chances. A perspective that is also taken on board in this study.

The research presented in this book not only puts an understudied group under the microscope, but also challenges some of the assumptions that have dominated—and perhaps also clouded—youth transition studies over the last decade. To understand the youth transitions of descendants of Turkish immigrants, we must see which trends apply to them and under what conditions. In fact, we must ask whether they do experience prolonged and complex transitions. And, if so, how? Delving more deeply, we can then ask if the descendants of immigrants are also delaying transitions (such as by postponing marriage), and examine the role played by gender, ethnicity and social class. Can these young people still rely on their family for support during transitions if they come from lower social classes, if their parents have relatively low education levels and a different ethnic background? Furthermore, how might gendered values in their ethnic community shape their transitions? At what age and under what conditions are transitions acceptable for second-generation youth?

Previous studies have presented the transition pathways of ethnic minority youth as different from those of the majority group, yet have struggled to interpret these trajectories due to insufficient ethnic minority data (Evans 2002; Lehmann 2007; Plug and Bois-Reymond 2006). For example, Plug and Bois-Reymond (2006) filed young Roma women’s trajectories under ‘other transitions’ since they married and had children earlier than the general population, although the processes or mechanisms that led to such transitions were not scrutinized. Other studies stressed unequal conditions, especially when discussing the transitions of ‘ethnic minority youth’ (Evans 2002; Evans and Furlong 1996; Lehmann 2007; Plug and Bois-Reymond 2006; Webster 2009). That term, however, lumps together both immigrants and their descendants, regardless of whether they were born in the host country or a parent’s country of origin. Although researchers have often emphasized the discriminatory practices and unequal resources such groups must contend with when transitioning from school to work, not enough attention has been paid to social class, gender and ethnicity, and how those factors shape transitions of immigrants’ descendants in different contexts.

This book explores when and how having immigrant parents influences young people’s transitions in different settings. Broadly speaking, it scrutinizes social structures to determine how they shape transition outcomes. It shows how immigrants’ descendants experience unique conditions and how their youth transitions differ from those of others, due to their ethnic community’s gendered values and their parent’s resources, often circumscribed by social class and ethnic background. The book uses a comparative design to highlight how social structures interact with institutional structures to present these young people with both opportunities and obstacles during their transitions.

1.2 Conceptual Tools of the Study

In analyzing youth transitions as both forms of practice and on-going processes in young people’s trajectories, I borrow some concepts from Bourdieu while also staying critical of his theory. Capital theory helps to order the social background of descendants of Turkish immigrants by exploring the forms of capital and resources they possess in relation to different fields. This is innovative since Bourdieu (1984) applied capital theory to study social reproduction among an advantaged middle class; I look at how forms of capital can be used to comprehend the reproduction of social disadvantage as well as ways of overcoming such disadvantage and become upward mobile. Migration and ethnic studies have mostly employed the concept of “capital” in terms of social capital. Zhou (2005) used the concept as “ethnicity as social capital”, a resource embedded in the Chinese ethnic community and Modood (2004) examined it as a resource embedded in the Pakistani community in the UK. These studies mostly looked at one dimension and operationalized capital as an asset in the community rather than a process that could be activated across the life course. This is mostly because they have used the “capital” as an embedded resource rather than studying forms of capital as a developmental concept in one’s social trajectory, which is where the innovative approach of this study lies. Taking into account social class, gender and ethnicity as main social structural dimensions; I study how different forms of capital, or the lack thereof, influence peoples’ transition trajectories.

1.2.1 Social Class: Parents’ Forms of Capital

One of the most common lenses through which to see and evaluate social class is occupational status (Crompton 2010). Most studies of educational achievement among the descendants of immigrants use variables that combine occupational status with educational level to control for the effect of parental background (Heath and Brinbaum 2007). Other studies take parental resources into account to help explain the role that parents play in educational attainment (Crul et al. 2012; Schnell 2012; Van de Werfhorst and Van Tubergen 2007). These studies repeatedly analyse and affirm the role of parental background and involvement in educational attainment. When controlling for parental background Van de Werfshorst and Van Tubergen (2007) found that the descendants of immigrants appeared more likely to succeed than those with native-born parents. Brinbaum and Kieffer (2009) showed that French immigrant parents had higher aspirations for their children than native-born parents with similar educational and occupational backgrounds. These studies highlight how, despite apparent similarities in education and economic status among immigrants, there are covert mechanisms and/or resources that significantly differentiate immigrant parents from each other and from native-born parents. Furthermore, youth transition research, still mostly entrenched in the individualization paradigm, can benefit from examining how parental social class influences transition processes. Although recent studies have found that economic insecurities force young people to rely more on family support mechanisms (Cote and Bynner 2008; Jones 2009), they do not specify which kinds of support are significant.

To capture the covert mechanisms of social class in young people’s lives, I apply a more detailed class analysis. Savage et al. (2005) proposed that by employing concepts such as capital, assets and resources (CARs)—notably including Bourdieu’s forms of capital—we might derive a better understanding of how class inequalities are formed at the micro-level. This approach is conducive to comprehending how social class works in practice rather than merely constructing a classification scheme. Savage et al. (2005) credited Bourdieu for providing a dynamic conceptualization of class due to the potential for accumulating or transforming various forms of capital.

For Bourdieu (1985b, 1987), social class is a social space where agents are distributed according to their relative capital and have the opportunity to share a similar habitus. Bourdieu (1985a) proposed four generic forms of capital: cultural, economic, social and symbolic. Capital comprises the material and non-material resources with which individuals are endowed for their struggle in different fields (Bourdieu 1985a). It is thus important to establish the relationship between capital and a field that bestows a symbolic value on it. For Bourdieu (2005: 44), the latter refers to “a field of forces and struggles in which the stake is the power to transform the field of forces”. In each field, struggles transpire between “the newcomer who tries to break through the barrier and the dominant agent who will try to defend the monopoly and keep out the competition” (p. 72). The conditions apply to all fields, including politics, religion, education and employment. It should not be forgotten, that the descendants of immigrants are newcomers to many fields where the rules of game are already set.

Forms of capital are not fixed, and their convertibility is a cornerstone of the theory; the forms can develop along the course of a social trajectory and convert into one other. They let us study social class dynamically, as a constant struggle wherein individuals develop and convert various resources in their social trajectories, rather than as a fixed status. Because Bourdieu (1984) initially used forms of capital to study the social reproduction of advantage among the dominant group, he is often criticised for being a theorist of reproduction rather than of change and transformation (Bennett et al. 2009; Friedman 2016; Jenkins 2002). Yet, migration scholars have used his theoretical toolkit to illustrate capital development (Keskiner 2015, 2017; Keskiner and Crul 2017) and intra-group variations of capital acquisition and production (Erel 2010). Erel (2010) showed how, over time, migrant women have developed different forms of capital in their migration trajectories and selectively turned to resources from their home country. In line with her argument, I study the differentiation of capital among immigrant parents to see how it impacts their children’s social trajectory, beginning with their education and into their transitions. Despite mostly originating from rural backgrounds in Turkey, the immigrant parents in my study experienced distinct institutional structures in their host countries and wide variations with regard to language acquisition, educational attainment, labour market conditions and exposure to migrant and/or family networks. I hypothesized that this would lead to capital development and conversion among the parents, that might not be directly captured by the statistical models controlling for their “educational level”. Erel (2010: 643) stated that forms of capital are “both the product of and productive of differentiations of gender, ethnicity and class within the migrant group”. To her list, I therefore add age and generation. Intra-migrant group differentiations of capital development also show variations across age and the generation of migration, since migrants are exposed to different structures at different times.

To reiterate, I analyze migrant parents’ forms of capital expressly in relation to their children’s trajectories. Yet, this book’s major contribution is to explain how the descendants of Turkish immigrants develop forms of capital in their social trajectories and how they do so across two distinct settings.

1.2.2 Social Class in the Making: Developing Forms of Capital Along Social Trajectories

In his book Distinction, Bourdieu (1984: 109) discusses the concept of social trajectory.

On the one hand, agents are not completely defined by the properties they possess at a given time, whose conditions of acquisition persist in the habitus (the hysteresis effect); and on the other hand, the relationship between initial capital and present capital, or, to put it in another way, between the initial and present positions in social space, is a statistical relationship of very variable intensity.

In this definition, Bourdieu suggests that individuals travel along a trajectory and they can, over time, diversify and augment their capital. Nevertheless, he argues, the available pathways and the trajectory one travels depend on one’s initial social position. The trajectory’s slope will thus be determined by parental resources and position in social space, and the capital available at the end of the trajectory will strongly correlate with initial parental capital. That is to say, young people do not move randomly in social space; their trajectories are structured by institutional settings, contextual factors and their parents’ resources. Yet, as Bourdieu (1999) later observed in The Weight of the World, educational systems have become major markers of success and can, to a great extent, affect students’ chances to succeed in life. In my study, a social trajectory is not restricted by parental background, and each structure has its own ways of shaping trajectories. In relation to these diverse structures, young people can develop various forms of capital, which may or may not facilitate achieving greater distance from their parents’ initial position in social space. Bourdieu’s social trajectory was also popular in youth transition studies in the 1980s, although came under fire for its structuralist emphasis. Revisiting the concept, my study argues that even though young people navigate their own transitions—and hence execute agency—their transitions are still bound by social and institutional structures.

In sum, my application of Bourdieu’s theories is both flexible and reflexive. On one hand, I use his concepts to articulate the relationship between capital and fields. On the other, his concept of social trajectory allows me to demonstrate that not all trajectories travelled by the descendants of immigrants reproduce their initial conditions. Understanding social trajectories is crucial to understanding the transitions of the descendants of immigrants without relegating them to possessing only their parents’ resources or binding them to institutional conditions. Instead, I recognize how they develop certain forms and volumes of capital throughout their education and labour market trajectories.

1.2.3 Gendered Transitions

Gender plays out in different ways through the social trajectories of young people. Gendered forms of capital possessed or developed by mothers and fathers of the respondents is one way in which gendered transitions could be understood. Bourdieu helps elucidate how social class functions and changes at the micro-level of transition. However, this approach is less applicable for my analysis of gender and gendered capitals in social trajectories. Feminist scholars have criticised Bourdieu’s writings, commonly taking issue with his depiction of women as bearers rather than producers of capital and his tendency to ignore the role of gender in the acquisition of resources (Adkins 2003; Skeggs 2004a, b, c). McRobbie (2002) argued that Bourdieu’s focus on dominated groups and their suffering in The Weight of the World was an elaborate empirical description of their condition rather than a theoretical explication of their reproduction or mobility patterns. Skeggs (2004c) blamed Bourdieu’s entrapment in the “dominant symbolic”, which is defined and dominated by middle-class values. Researchers have also documented specifically gendered forms of capital. Skeggs (2004a, b) uncovered different forms of gendered capital and values among working-class women, including loyalty and caring. Reay (2004) identified “emotional capital” among mothers and its significance for their children’s educational attainment. Hence gendered capitals such as emotional capital will be analysed in the book.

Alongside gendered forms of capital, gender roles, norms and values underpin young people’s transition trajectories and affect their education, occupations and matrimonial strategies (McDowell 2009; Gaskell 1992). Gender shapes young people’s educational and occupational choices and decisions. During the post-war manufacturing industry boom, gender roles seemed to have had a major influence on transition pathways: men became the breadwinners, working outside the home, and women stayed inside, doing work for their own household. However, this pattern applied mostly to middle-class families where the husbands were able to provide financially for the family. Working-class women have always had to make a living while also bearing the responsibility for household tasks. Clearly, circumstances have changed over the last half century, especially with women’s mass entry into education and the labour market. However, these developments led to women being active both in the labour market and at home, where they remain the main caregiver (Hochschild 1989). Such changes are reflected not only in objectively observable trends, but also in young people’s subjective orientations, which, in turn, determine their school-to-work pathways. Weis (1990) noted that young women are increasingly motivated to pursue higher education and enter the labour market rather than to become ‘mere’ homemakers. However, Lehmann’s (2007) study showed that while young women were aspiring to higher education and employment, they were motivated in part by their future domestic roles and/or anticipated mothering duties. Talking about their transitions, the young women expressed concern about how to juggle being a mother and a businesswoman, while the young men raised no concerns about marriage or parenting (Lehmann 2007). For other young women, who could not get a foothold in education or the labour market, becoming mothers, pursuing domestic roles and taking up part-time employment remained valid transition pathways (Wallace 1987) and this tendency was still evident two decades later (Bynner 2001). Gendered values also pressured young men into certain orientations or options. Bynner (2005) saw how gendered norms forced young men from lower social classes into the labour market earlier. This shows how gender, social class and age intersect to shape transition trajectories. What is considered to be an acceptable transition pathway or an acceptable age to make a certain transition, varies across social classes and is sharply coloured by gender.

Gender not only intersects with social class but also with ethnicity in shaping the transition pathways since ethnic communities’ gendered norms and values have a significant effect on young people’s motivations, aspirations and social trajectories. A recent study by Hushek (2011) showed that descendants of Turkish immigrants had distinctly different union formation patterns compared to peers with native-born parents: they wedded earlier and usually married a partner from Turkey. Women also married earlier than men. This finding has raised several questions about their youth transitions. What are acceptable and desirable marrying ages for descendants of Turkish immigrants within their ethnic community? How do they vary between men and women? What kind of gendered norms shape their transitions concerning marriage, among other decisions? This book therefore analyzes gendered transitions not only in terms of gendered forms of capital, but also with regard to the intersections of gender, ethnicity, social class and age in shaping the transition trajectories of men and women.

1.2.4 The Role of Ethnicity

While previous youth transition studies have documented, though not explicated, the various transition pathways among ethnic minority youth, this book seeks to fill this gap. However, to do that without reifying a group or overgeneralizing certain characteristics (Brubaker 1992, 2004), I needed to first of all recall that the Turkish community I was analyzing encompasses immigrants and their descendants from multiple generations. It should not, therefore, be seen as a homogenous whole: like all ethnic communities, it is a heterogeneous group. This heterogeneity is visible along the lines of social class, gender and generation; the time of, and age at, arrival also affect migrants’ life chances in a host country. Waters and Jimenez (2005) illustrated how on-going flows of Mexican migration could lead to the same ethnic community having multiple generations of migrants and their descendants on their own pathways, each moving at their own pace. An immigrant parent who entered the host setting at the age of 30 will acquire different forms of capital than a fellow immigrant parent who arrived as an adolescent: the latter has had more opportunities to learn the local language and enrol in educational institutions, even if for a minor vocational degree. Or, unlike an immigrant parent who might have fallen into unemployment or had to go on sick leave, a migrant parent who has been active on the labour market or established a business will have developed various forms of capital over time, shaping the resources available to them and their offspring.

Ethnic groups, moreover, are not static entities. They change and develop according to the forms of capital they have brought along with them, as well as in response to the structural conditions within their host country. Early studies described Turkish communities in the Netherlands as low-educated migrants working in low-skilled jobs with the primary goal of saving money and returning to Turkey within a short span of time. Lindo (2000) found that the group had little interest in providing for their children’s education; instead they wanted them to work and contribute to family savings. Around the same time, Coenen (2001) showed that there were also Turkish immigrant parents who were trying to encourage their children not to follow their example and to break the circle of disadvantage. Later studies of the same community revealed that as return migration plans faded, expectations for their children’s lives shifted (Crul 2013) and the migrants become more supportive of their children’s education. Another factor was the disappearance of low-skilled jobs in the host countries’ manufacturing industries that had previously provided work for migrants and their descendants: migrants subsequently realized that the only way for their children to access jobs was via the education system.

Ethnicity therefore played a dramatic role in creating the conditions, both subjective and objective, in which descendants of Turkish immigrants found themselves. Moreover, there were differences in the group’s norms and values. Explicating this variation, as I do in this book, is key to understanding its effect on young people.

1.3 Case Selection and Methodology

Several parameters informed my case selection. The Netherlands and France were fitting choices because each setting had its own unique conditions for youth transitions. Though I focus on a city-to-city micro-level comparison between Amsterdam and Strasbourg, some of the most significant structural differences affecting youth transitions are found at the national macro-level (Devadason 2008). This is especially salient for education systems, which are centralized in both countries (Kerckhoff 1995). My case selection was thus primarily based on the different ways in which the Dutch and the French education systems prepare young people for the labour market. For the descendants of immigrants with no contacts or networks to tap into for career opportunities, education provides the most promising channel for building certain forms of capital.

The Dutch education system is marked by early stratification as pupils are streamed into educational tracks at the age of 12. The French system is more comprehensive, with tracking occurring at the end of lower-secondary education when students are 15. These stratification processes set the conditions for youth transitions, and are crucial in determining which pathways young people can follow into higher education and the labour market (Bol and Van De Werfhorst 2013). The nature of tracking also points to the retrospective nature of youth transition; rather than happening at one point in time, it is a process that begins at an early age. This book therefore analyses the very experience of tracking. I examine how much space educational institutions give parents and analyze the extent to which they are able to influence the tracking process with the forms of capital available to them. Observing differences in schooling sheds light on the unique conditions of prolonged youth transitions since the Dutch and French education systems each have their own routes to higher education (see Chap.  2).

Another major difference between the settings manifests in how school-learned skills are rewarded in the labour market. The Dutch education system offers vocational training at school along with extended internships. The skills acquired through training at school and in internships reflect employer and labour market expectations, thus smoothing access to the labour market (Iannelli and Raffe 2007). In France, school-based vocational education incorporates relatively meagre employment experience and internship; the alternative is an apprenticeship programme, which is less prestigious and thus less popular among young people. Maurice and his colleagues (1986) characterized the French labour market as an “occupational space” wherein skills are gained through on-the-job training, not earlier at school or through internships. As a result, vocational graduates may experience more difficulties finding jobs in France. This book accordingly juxtaposes the differential experiences of vocational and academic track students across the two settings. In so doing, it examines the extent to which institutional settings foster prolonged and complex transitions (see Chap.  4).

Amsterdam and Strasbourg differ with respect to their labour market structures and the impact of macro-economic trends. Over the last decade—and particularly from 2008 to 2009, the year after the global financial crisis hit and the period in which my research was conducted—the Dutch economy was in better shape than that of France. At the time of my research, Strasbourg—the capital of Alsace, one of France’s most economically vibrant regions—had relatively low youth unemployment (16%), though it was still higher than Amsterdam’s rate (7%). Amsterdam’s economy is dominated by the service sector, though its financial sector is growing, and healthcare, ICT and knowledge are also major sectors. While Strasbourg has a strong service sector, the Alsace region has also retained a relatively strong traditional manufacturing industry. Factories are a major source of employment in the region, and there are indications that they may be significant in creating employment for descendants of immigrants (Morel-Chevillet 2005).

Comparing these two cities—one classified as a strong service economy and the other as a declining industrial economy increasingly dependent on services—enabled me to explore whether the persistence of industrial forms of employment influenced youth transitions. For instance, one might hypothesize that young people in Strasbourg, especially those anticipating working in industry, might be expected to pursue more traditional transitions than those in Amsterdam. The Dutch capital’s robust service economy also influences the employment market, which provides more abundant opportunities for those leaving, or about to leave, the education system.

The second major reason for my case selection was the presence of a substantial group of Turkish immigrants and their descendants in both cities. In view of this, a brief history of Turkish migration to both countries is useful. After Turkey signed its first bilateral labour recruitment agreement with Germany in 1961, the Netherlands signed a similar agreement in 1964 and France followed in 1965. Migration to the Netherlands began on a small scale, but accelerated in the following years (Abadan –Unat 2006; Akgündüz 2008). During the recruitment period from 1964 to 1974 up to 30,000 Turks migrated to the Netherlands (Dagevos et al. 2006). Most came from central and eastern Anatolia (Akgündüz 2008). Even though the Netherlands terminated the recruitment agreements in 1974, Turkish migration continued through unofficial channels and family reunification. The largest share of family reunifications took place in the 1980s, when the Netherlands’ Turkish population almost doubled. Since the mid-1990s, Turkish immigration to the Netherlands has remained relatively low and stable, with an estimated 4000–5000 young Turks emigrating annually; some to study or work, though mostly for marriage (Nicolaas et al. 2010). Official statistics (CBS 2012) document the Turkish community in the Netherlands as consisting of 388,967 people, 51% of whom were born in the Netherlands and 49% of whom were born in Turkey (ibid).

By 1969, France was receiving high numbers of immigrants from Turkey. It cancelled its labour agreement with Turkey in 1974 (the same year as the Netherlands) (Danış and İrtİş 2008). According to Turkish employment agency statistics, approximately 55,000 workers emigrated to France between 1965 and 1974 (Akgündüz 2008). However, this number excludes those who entered France via Germany and those who moved along unofficial routes and become legalized at a later date. It is noteworthy that Turkey’s initial labour migration flow to France was larger than to the Netherlands. Furthermore, despite 1974s termination of labour agreements, Turkish migration to France persisted through private employers, family reunification and illegal entry. In 1999, official statistics counted 208,000 people of Turkish origin in France (Simon 2003). As French censuses do not collect information on immigrants’ descendants born within the country, this statistic only reflects members of the Turkish community born outside of France. Official numbers are unavailable, though Nielsen et al. (2014) estimated France’s population to include 500,000 people of Turkish origin.

In the Netherlands, most immigrants from Turkey settled in large cities, such as Rotterdam and Amsterdam (Bocker 2000). Like most guest workers, the majority of Turks were employed in low-skilled manufacturing jobs. In Amsterdam, most were employed in factories, such as Ford or ADM (Rath 2002). Over time, economic conditions caused the closure of these plants and the workers decamped to other industries. Self-employed entrepreneurship also grew among Turkish immigrants. In Amsterdam, Turks formed the largest group of ethnic entrepreneurs during the 1990s, working in catering, retail, wholesale and manufacturing (ibid). Turks were the only immigrant group active in manufacturing industries; in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the garment industry in Amsterdam was largely run by Turkish entrepreneurs relying on co-ethnic workers and using informal employment practices, which were tolerated by the Dutch authorities as they stimulated economic growth (Raes et al. 2002). However, these enterprises were undercut by producers in Eastern Europe and Turkey and they faced further difficulties when the Dutch government imposed tighter labour regulations (ibid), leading to most of the businesses being shuttered. Today, Turkish immigrants and their descendants are active as entrepreneurs in the catering and retail industries. However, since the 1990s, inactivity rates have risen among members of the first generation who have become unemployed or officially disabled (CBS 2004).

Turkish guest workers originally came to France to work in its manufacturing industries (Petek-Salom 2002). After the 1973–1974 oil crisis, unemployment started to rise among this group. During the 1990s, the unemployment rate among Turks in France reached 29% (Simon 2003). While some Turks successfully transitioned to the service economy (notably in construction and catering), the majority remained in labour-intensive industrial establishments (Hargreaves 1995, 2007). According to the 1999 records of the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), 64% of Turks in France were employed as manual workers and only 8% were self-employed entrepreneurs (Simon 2003). By 2004, the number of Turkish manual workers had fallen to 58%, while those in other jobs rose to 15% and the self-employed to 9% (Perrin-Haynes 2008). Turkish immigrants and their descendants have dispersed throughout the country, though they are concentrated in Paris and the regions of Rhone-Alpes and Alsace (Danış and İrtİş 2008). In Alsace, of which Strasbourg is the capital, Turks have mostly held large-scale manufacturing jobs and worked in mining. Almost 80% of Turkish men in this region work in industry and construction, while Turkish women tend to cluster more in the service and administrative sectors (Morel-Chevillet 2005). Unemployment is a serious problem in France’s Turkish community, whose members are three times as likely to be unemployed as peers of European origin (Perrin-Haynes 2008). The situation is most striking among Turkish women, who form the largest group of inactive females among all immigrant and non-immigrant groups in France (ibid).

Turks have comparable populations in the Netherlands and France, but France’s larger overall population and the presence of other colonial minorities renders Turkish immigrants less visible. Strasbourg is an exception. This city is home to a Turkish population of considerable size that is even more visible than immigrants from the Maghreb, from which the majority of immigrant communities in France’s other major cities originate (Kirszbaum et al. 2009). The Alsace region as a whole has almost 30,000 Turkish immigrants and their descendants (Morel-Chevillet 2005). In Amsterdam, the Turkish population is close to 40,000 (O+S 2012). Most immigrants to both cities were part of the guest worker flows: consequently, the young people I studied are almost exclusively the descendants of guest workers (Bocker 2000; Danış and İrtİş 2008). In both cities, the majority of Turkish immigrants and their descendants live in large suburban districts with social housing. In Amsterdam, the majority live in the west and east, many in social housing complexes (Musterd and Van Kempen 2009). In Strasbourg, the majority are concentrated with other immigrant groups in quartiers such as Mulhouse or Hautepierre (Brabant 1989).

For my case selection, I relied on a descriptive analysis of The Integration of the European Second Generation (TIES) Survey, the first international comparative study on the children of Turkish, Moroccan and ex-Yugoslavian immigrants living in 15 European cities across eight countries (Crul and Heering 2008). Collecting data between 2007 and 2009, the survey set out to compare how “integration contexts” affect the trajectories of immigrants’ children and to assess the extent to which they achieve parity with their peers with native-born parents (Crul et al. 2012). The survey provided detailed retrospective information on educational trajectories, school-to-work transitions and labour market activity. It also documented household composition, parental background, neighbourhood configuration, citizenship status and identity, among other details. I made extensive use of TIES survey data for all the empirical studies within this book, and for background information on Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Strasbourg and Paris. TIES respondents were asked for detailed information about their parents’ migration, educational and occupational backgrounds. A preliminary analysis of TIES survey results showed that Strasbourg was a good match with Amsterdam, since the Turkish families in these cities described similar migration histories and educational backgrounds, while respondents in Paris came more from highly educated backgrounds or arrived seeking political asylum. Both cities had a high proportion of migrants from central Anatolia, with 62% of Turks in Amsterdam and 43% of Turks in Strasbourg having their origins there. Regions of origin identified in the TIES survey seemed to be consistent with overall migration patterns to the Netherlands and France, with the majority of migrants hailing from central Anatolia (Akgündüz 2008). Despite high missing values, in each city a small group of parents, who had arrived in the host country before the age of 15, were reported. In Amsterdam, this group comprised 5.5% of the fathers and 7% of the mothers, while in Strasbourg it comprised 2.4% of the fathers and 5% of the mothers. As they had arrived during adolescence, this group could be classified as the “1.5 generation”. The TIES survey shows that mothers had lower education levels than fathers in both cities: 13.5% of the mothers in Amsterdam and 17.9% in Strasbourg had never had any schooling or had only attended religious school, compared to only 5.9% of the fathers in Amsterdam and 2.8% in Strasbourg who had had no schooling at all, while over 40% had attended primary school and 20% had attended secondary school. The relatively high presence of 1.5 generation mothers meant that more mothers than fathers had received some sort of schooling in the host countries: 7.6% in Amsterdam and 6.8% in Strasbourg said they had taken courses, ranging in level from primary to higher education. Parents in Amsterdam were less active in the labour market, with 32.4% of the respondents’ fathers and 18.9% of their mothers being active, compared to 48% of the fathers and 27% of the mothers in Strasbourg. We observed that parents in Amsterdam were slightly older than the parents in Strasbourg who were mostly in their 40s. In Amsterdam, economically active parents mostly worked in the service sector, while in Strasbourg they (mostly fathers) were concentrated in construction, followed by manufacturing.

These descriptive trends from the TIES survey illustrate comparable migration histories, age groups and education levels for parents in both cities, although the parents in Strasbourg are slightly younger and more active on the labour market. Tracking these similarities and differences is crucial as it illustrates how immigrants and their descendants fared in different institutional settings and the differences that may be important when considering the role that parents play in youth transitions. To reiterate, parents who arrived in a host country at an earlier age or who are active on the labour market are more likely to have acquired forms of capital crucial to transitions, particularly in light of institutional structures and the specific opportunities that they offer or restrict.

1.4 Data Collection and Research Techniques

Throughout my research, I applied a mixed methodological approach, using both quantitative and qualitative methods (Creswell 2003; Niglas 2009). This choice was motivated first by the need to track broad patterns of transitions across two settings, for which I applied quantitative analysis. Second, I wanted to detail my respondents’ social trajectories within such transition patterns, for which I applied in-depth qualitative methods. During the exploratory and analysis phases, the quantitative and qualitative data informed, supplemented and strengthened one other. Each of this book’s chapters reflects the mixed-method design, structured to report the results of quantitative and qualitative methods in a mutually complementary way.

1.4.1 Quantitative Data: The TIES Survey, Sampling and Research Design

The quantitative data came from the TIES survey which, in order to collect representative data from the descendants of immigrants in the selected cities, adopted adequate appropriate sampling strategies. In Amsterdam the survey accessed up-to-date population registers for information on the age, sex, date of birth and birth place of respondents, as well as their parents’ place of birth. This information was readily available in the municipal population register (GBA), which provided the most accurate information available on the parents (Groenewold and Lessard-Phillips 2012). In Amsterdam, the descendants of immigrants from Turkey and the comparison group were sampled from the same neighbourhoods. The target group was aged 18–35, and a total of 237 native-born descendants of Turkish immigrants, 242 native-born descendants of Moroccan immigrants and 259 respondents from the comparison group (of Dutch ethnicity) participated in the survey. The response rate was 29.9% for the descendants of Turkish immigrants and 40.1% for the control group. Groenweld and his colleagues in NIDI (Nederlands Interdisciplinair Demografisch Instituut) examined selection bias using the personal records of the municipal registry and concluded that the non-response bias was slight with regard to the characteristics being compared (Groenewold 2008). In France, the sampling process proved more difficult as the information needed to identify the respondents was missing from the population register since the municipalities did not register parents’ country of birth (Groenewold and Lessard-Phillips 2012). The French team at INED (Institut National d’Etudes Démographiques) developed an alternative strategy constructing a frame of the names and addresses of descendants of immigrants by using phone books in Paris and Strasbourg (Milewski and Hamel 2010). Applying onomastic identification procedures, they identified 2745 people in Strasbourg as having Turkish family names, who were then organized according to postcode. These postal code areas were then classified according to the proportion of registered residents with Turkish names. A screening was then conducted using questionnaires to recruit eligible respondents. The questionnaire included basic information such as age, sex, individual and parents’ country of birth to ensure that potential respondents met the criteria of the survey targets. If not, they were asked whether they had a family member living in the household who would fit the criteria as a native-born descendant of Turkish immigrants. The comparison group was selected using a similar technique. After this lengthy sampling process, a total of 252 interviews with descendants of immigrants from Turkey and 177 interviews with the comparison group were conducted. In the first stage, the response rate was 25% for the descendants of Turkish immigrants and 37% for the comparison group. One issue with regard to the sampling frame in France was the potential bias inherent in selecting “Turkish sounding names”. It was argued that this strategy would miss young women who might have married a French partner or who had French fathers. However, considering the low rate of mixed marriage among Turkish immigrants and their descendants in France (Milewski and Hamel 2010), this was not considered to undermine the integrity of the sampling procedure. As an additional precaution against this, in the first stage of screening, the French team inquired whether the respondents had any female family members who had married a non-Turkish person and left the household, and, if there were, this person was included in the sample (Milewski and Hamel 2010).

In both settings, the survey questionnares were filled in face-to-a-face with the respondents. The potential language barrier was dealt with using bilingual interviewers (Groenewold and Lessard-Phillips 2012). In the Netherlands, the fieldwork began in 2006 and lasted nearly 14 months (Groenewold 2008). In France, the first round of fieldwork was conducted in 2007, and, when both rounds are considered, the fieldwork took five-and-a-half months in total (Schnell 2012). The TIES survey collected an invaluable body of data despite the difficulties with regard to sampling and data collection. Recent publications using the TIES Survey provide further detailed information on the methodology (Crul and Heering 2008; Crul et al. 2012; Huschek 2011; Schnell 2012) (Table 1.1).
Table 1.1

Respondents’ mean age and gender, by city




Descendants of immigrants from Turkey

Comparison group

Descendants of immigrants from Turkey

Comparison group


















Mean age









St. dev.


















Source: TIES Survey 2008

The TIES survey provides detailed retrospective information about all of the respondents’ school careers. This data was invaluable in helping reconstruct the educational trajectories analyzed in Chap.  2. The respondents’ employment experiences are also well documented in TIES. It provides detailed information about young people’s current or last job, including its duration, the type of contract, promotions as well as the number of jobs respondents have held and the duration of any periods of unemployment. Subjective questions gauged career satisfaction as well as future plans. A brief section on the school-to-work transition recorded the number of months respondents took to find their first job after leaving school and what activities they undertook during this period. The respondents’ initial and later labour market activities were analyzed to yield data that could be translated into typologies that traced different transitions, how they developed over time after leaving education and whether respondents pursued active or inactive, stable or shifting pathways (see Chap.  5) (Table 1.2).
Table 1.2

Activity at the time of the TIES survey, in percentages and N




Descendants of immigrants from Turkey

Comparison group

Descendants of immigrants from Turkey

Comparison group









Still in school



























Inactive (sick/caring for children and not seeking work)









Total (N)









Source: TIES Survey 2008

1.4.2 Qualitative Fieldwork: In-depth Interviews in Amsterdam and Strasbourg

The next step was to conduct qualitative fieldwork. The individuals I included in my qualitative study were drawn from the TIES survey respondents. The majority of TIES respondents had agreed to be approached once more. For my study, I did a total of 50 interviewees, 25 in each city. I conducted biographical interviews at their homes and workplaces, aiming to fully grasp their transition realities. I also interviewed family members, spouses whenever I was given permission.

I limited my sample to those between 20 and 30 years old at the time of interviewing so as to capture a cohort that was transitioning within common social and economic milieus. I also pursued a purposeful sampling strategy and sought a comparable distribution in terms of educational attainments, interviewing those with both academic and vocational training. My age range included people near the end of their studies, in higher education or vocational training, and those already out of school. In the latter group, I interviewed unemployed, economically active and inactive respondents. The sample variance showcased a multiplicity of transition experiences for an age cohort of 20–30. Although some of the respondents had found a sense of stability, none of them could be described as being in the final stage of their transitions as their careers were clearly open for further development. As a result, the design of the qualitative inquiry also aimed to capture transition as a process rather than an outcome. Over the course of 2 years, I made two field visits to each city. During my second fieldwork visit, I re-contacted the majority of respondents from the first round to see how their transitions had evolved over the year. I was able to reconnect with six respondents in Amsterdam and five in Strasbourg. The second round of interviews produced interesting results, underlining the longitudinal and on-going nature of transitions. The interviews were mainly conducted in Turkish, though I left it up to interviewees to decide the language we used. The fact that I could speak Turkish, Dutch and French, seemed to make it more appealing for most respondents to speak to me in their mother tongue. Yet during the interviews, respondents constantly switched between two languages. All the interviews were transcribed and analysed using ATLAS.ti software. Although I attempted to do a detailed coding of the dataset, my analysis ultimately relied more on the family of codes, or on a conceptual organization of the transcripts, since detailed coding tended to de-contextualize the quotations, thus interrupting the flow of the interview.

In-depth interviews remain one of the most common forms of qualitative data collection, yet perspectives differ concerning what the data can legitimately offer (Ritchie and Lewis 2003). I side with the claim that the researcher ‘travels’—to borrow Kvale’s (1996) word—with the interviewees as they construct their stories. Probing by the interviewer provokes self-reflection on the part of the interviewee, in an effort to go more deeply into their experiences. Bourdieu (2000) warned against the ‘biographical illusion’, especially when an interview environment might force interviewees to put their lives in perspective and present them in organized sequences. Nevertheless, taking a biographical approach to in-depth interviews encourages respondents to reflect on their earlier experiences, and remains an essential method for collecting retrospective qualitative data. In my interviews I asked respondents to walk me through their experiences in and out of school, tell stories about their parents and describe how they saw their parents’ role in their education. These in-depth biographical interviews enabled respondents to consider and articulate their own transitions. In fact, they were doing exactly what the descendant of a Turkish immigrant, back in 1980, had told Gündüz Vassaf still needed to be done: getting their voices heard.


  1. 1.

    Dutch for ‘side job’.

  2. 2.

    We Still Couldn’t Make Our Voices Heard: The Children of Turkish Workers in Europe (Vassaf 1983).

  3. 3.

    Throughout the book I use the terms “Turkish second generation”, “native-born descendants of Turkish immigrants”, “descendants of immigrants from Turkey” interchangeably.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Elif Keskiner
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyErasmus University RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands

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