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Abstract

Using a mixed methods approach, this article analyses the nexus between migration and social positions drawing on recent survey data on migrants who have arrived in Germany after 1994 from the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), as well as qualitative interviews with 26 respondents to the survey. Drawing on a Bourdieusian forms of capital approach (Bourdieu, 1986) and applying the method of Multiple Correspondence Analysis (MCA) to the SOEP survey data, we highlight two dimensions structuring the nexus between migration and social positions in Germany: (1) capital related to legal status and multiple migration and (2) (trans)national cultural capital. Through a cluster analysis based on the MCA results, we then identify and describe four profiles of migrants characterised by distinct configurations of cultural capital (social class background, education and linguistic skills before and after settlement), legal status (citizenship and status at migration), experiences of multiple cross-border movements and social positions: the ‘foreign working-class,’ the ‘foreign middle class,’ the ‘adapted German migrants,’ and the ‘young highly educated urbans.’ The complementary analysis of the qualitative data allows us to go further in understanding some of the factors that may play a role in shaping migrants’ social position(ing) in the four clusters. In particular, we show that resources such as determination and perseverance can be crucial for some migrants to counter structural constraints related to their legal status in transferring or accessing cultural capital, and that linguistic skills are also used by some migrants as a marker of social distinction.

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