The Integration Paradox: A Review and Meta-Analysis of the Complex Relationship Between Integration and Reports of Discrimination

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Social science research has produced evidence of an “integration paradox”: immigrants and their descendants who appear to have greater access to mainstream middle-class society, as indicated by their education or labor market success, often report experiencing more discrimination. Several explanations have been put forth to account for this counterintuitive pattern, supported by a wealth of empirical evidence. To assess the reliable insights generated by this line of research, this article presents a review and meta-analytic analysis of the integration paradox. The article reviews the major theoretical arguments advanced in literature, and derives crucial hypotheses concerning the phenomenon's overall nature, underlying mechanisms, and two key moderating conditions. Specifically, it discusses how factors like better education, which appear to signal improved integration into mainstream society, may also lead to greater exposure to mainstream members, heightened familiarity with exclusionary public discourse, or a heightened risk of downward social mobility. By increasing cognitive susceptibility to framing experiences in terms of discrimination or simply the opportunities to encounter discrimination, these mechanisms are expected to increase reports of discrimination. To test these propositions, the study summarizes and evaluates 280 statistical estimates published in 42 studies, utilizing recent developments in multilevel meta-analysis. The findings support the credibility of the integration paradox, particularly for immigrant minorities who are easily distinguishable from the mainstream and for those who reside in countries with a more open socio-political context of reception. However, the results also suggest that additional research is needed to fully comprehend the underlying mechanisms of the paradox.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Migration Review
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 May 2023

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