Second generations on the labor market in France : an enduring ethnic penalty. Contribution to segmented assimilation theory
This article examines the strength over time of the ethnic penalty in hiring in France for two cohorts of young people who left school in the last decade of the twentieth century. The results show that for equal educational degrees, the penalty affecting the Maghrebin group, who were already in difficulty in the 1980s despite a temporary fall in unemployment and continued democratizing of the school system, did not change substantially. The penalty was also significant for two other groups : young people of sub-Saharan African origin and, to a lesser degree, young people of Southeast Asian origin. During this period the improving economic context was more favorable to degree-holding applicants than others, while children of Maghrebin immigrants were still numerically more likely to have low qualifications. Young people of Portuguese origin, who seem to have advanced upon expansion of vocational specialization programs into higher education, pulled ahead of the Maghrebin group and they are from now ahead. This may strengthen the hypothesis of « statistical discrimination », a mechanism based on a group’s average characteristics. The borderline between statistical discrimination and more overtly racist discrimination remains unclear, however. The strong feeling of being discriminated against that is expressed by young people whose parents immigrated from North Africa or Black Africa, together with their pessimistic vision of the future, are indications of a serious split running through French society, though this does not affect the Turkish group. These perceptions may also work to accentuate a negative long-term dynamic, as shown by available longitudinal data on the second cohort. The results compel a rereading of the « segmented assimilation » theory as developed in an American context in reference to racism toward a black population – descendants of slaves – specific to American society.