Migration background

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The social characteristic of migration background describes people who themselves or their ancestors immigrated from another state , or social groups or communities that consist of immigrants or their descendants .

The term is used inconsistently. The definitions mostly relate to nationality and / or place of birth. In Germany, the term currently describes people who themselves or their father or mother were not born with German citizenship. In Austria, it refers to people whose parents were both born abroad; Depending on their place of birth, a distinction is also made between first and second generation migrants. In Switzerland the term is defined regardless of nationality.

In 2019 there were 21.2 million people with a migration background in Germany, which corresponds to a share of the population of around 26%.


Definition and use of terms

Proportion of residents with a migration background at district level according to data from the 2011 census in Germany

In Germany, migration background is a classification criterion in official statistics for describing a population group made up of people who have immigrated since 1949 and their descendants.

Definition of the Federal Statistical Office

Definition 2005

Since the 2005 microcensus, the State Statistical Offices and the Federal Statistical Office have differentiated between the population with a migration background and the population without a migration background. This distinction is made through an indirect determination of data on the migration background. The basis for this is an amendment to the Microcensus Act of 2004, which provides for the inclusion of questions to determine the migration background in the surveys from 2005 to 2012. Specifically, information on immigration, nationality and immigration of the respective respondent and their parents are asked for. Persons with a migration background ( in the broader sense ) are defined as "all those who immigrated to what is now the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany after 1949, as well as all foreigners born in Germany and all Germans born in Germany with at least one parent who immigrated after 1949 or was born as a foreigner in Germany ". The definition of people with a migration background in the narrower sense also used for the purpose of comparability over time is the same, except that this definition does not include German immigrant children from birth who no longer live with their parents or one of the parents.

By definition, ethnic repatriates and their children also belong to those with a migration background. These people do not need to have their own migration experience. In Germany, one parent's migration experience is sufficient to be classified as a person with a migration background, while in Austria, for example, both parents must have migration experience .

Every third person with a migration background has lived in Germany since birth.

According to this definition, 15.3 million people with a migration background lived in Germany in 2006, which corresponds to 18.6% of the population. In 2009, the number of people with a migration background in Germany rose to 16.0 million or 19.6% of the population. The growth is due to the increase in the number of German citizens with a migration background, as the number of foreigners in Germany has stagnated at 7.2 million for around ten years.

With 10.4 million people who have immigrated since 1950 - that is the population with their own migration experience - two thirds of all people with a migration background. In 2006, 7.3 million or 8.9% of the population and 47% of people with a migration background were foreign nationals. In 2006, people with a migration background and German citizenship comprised 7.9 million or 9.5% of the population and 53% of people with a migration background. People with a migration background are on average significantly younger than those without a migration background (33.8 versus 44.6 years). They are more strongly represented in the young age cohorts than in the old. Among the under five-year-olds, people with a migration background made up a third of this population group in 2008.

Change in 2011

The 2011 census was based on a slightly different definition of the migration background. It was not asked about immigration after 1949, but after 1955 .

Change in 2016

In 2016, the Federal Statistical Office changed the definition as part of a “typification of the migration background” so that it was now “easier to understand”. It now reads:

“A person has a migration background if they or at least one of their parents was not born with German citizenship. In detail, this definition includes immigrant and non-immigrant foreigners, immigrant and non-immigrant naturalized people, (late) repatriates as well as the descendants of these groups born as Germans. "

The Federal Statistical Office explains why the old definition was inadequate: “There is also a small group of people who were born abroad with German citizenship and whose parents do not have a migration background. In the 2015 microcensus, this affects an extrapolated 25,000 people. These people were born while their parents were abroad, e. B. while studying abroad or while working abroad . These foreign-born people do not have a migration background because they and their parents were born with German citizenship. Children of parents without a migration background cannot have a migration background. "

According to the new definition, the migration background no longer depends on the time when a person immigrated to the area of ​​Germany. Nevertheless, the Federal Statistical Office restricts: "The displaced persons of the Second World War and their descendants do not belong to the population with a migration background, since they and their parents were born with German citizenship." That people like Sudeten Germans or status Germans are mostly actually born without German citizenship flows apparently does not participate in this concept formation.

The new definition can be found for the first time in a declaration “Population with a migration background at record level” that was disseminated in September 2016, while the old definition is still used in the 2016 Statistical Yearbook.

Further definitions

A slightly different definition was made in the Migration Background Collection Ordinance of September 29, 2010, which applies to the area of ​​the Federal Employment Agency , it reads: “A migration background exists if 1. the person does not have German citizenship or 2. the The person's place of birth is outside the current borders of the Federal Republic of Germany and immigration to the current area of ​​the Federal Republic of Germany took place after 1949 or 3. the place of birth of at least one parent of the person is outside the current borders of the Federal Republic of Germany and this parent immigrates to today's Territory of the Federal Republic of Germany after 1949. "

According to Art. 3 GG and the General Equal Treatment Act (AGG) it is forbidden to associate legal consequences with a person's “ ethnic origin ”. Nobody should be discriminated against or given preference because they or their ancestors immigrated to Germany .

Two years after the introduction of an “Integration and Participation Act” in the state of Berlin , according to which the proportion of people with a migration background in various social groups is to be recorded, the Senate's response to a parliamentary question in 2012 made it known that correct measurements of the proportion of People with a migration background in the public service or among politicians would require surveys that are not legally permitted.

An example of the problems of reliably recording a migration background is provided by the list “More MPs with a migration background” published by the “Integration Media Service” after the 2013 Bundestag elections : Here, on only partially answered inquiries from press offices, “evaluated” interview statements and Supported similarly, MPs were assigned a “migration context”, while on the other hand publicly available information about foreign places of birth of MPs (well-known example Ursula von der Leyen ), which automatically resulted in a migration background, was not included in the figures.


Statistics based on the 2011 census

According to the 2011 census , 18.9 percent of the population in Germany had a migration background. The migrant population is concentrated in the metropolitan areas of southern and western Germany from Munich to the Ruhr area. The following picture emerged in the 25 largest cities:

Percentage of residents with a migration background (MH) in the 25 largest cities in Germany, as of 2011
(sorted by decreasing percentage MH)
city Population
with MH (in thousands)
with MH (%)
Frankfurt am Main 284 42.7
Stuttgart 225 38.6
Nuremberg 175 36.2
augsburg 95 36.0
Mannheim 103 35.7
Wiesbaden 89 33.4
Munich 444 33.2
Bielefeld 105 32.5
Dusseldorf 189 32.5
Wuppertal 110 32.1
Cologne 316 31.6
Bonn 93 30.6
Duisburg 146 30.1
Gelsenkirchen 76 29.6
Hanover 148 29.4
Karlsruhe 84 29.3
Dortmund 160 28.2
Hamburg 465 27.5
Bremen 136 25.2
eat 138 24.6
Berlin 781 23.9
Bochum 83 22.9
Muenster 56 19.5
Leipzig 39 7.9
Dresden 38 7.5
Statistics 2015

In 2015, 21 percent of the population or 17.1 million people in Germany had a migration background, which is an increase of 4.4 percent compared to the previous year. Most of the refugees who came to Germany in 2015 are not yet recorded here.

Statistics 2019

In 2019, 26% of the population or 21.2 million people in Germany had a migration background, which is an increase of 2.1% compared to the previous year.

In 2019, around 52% of the population with a migration background (11.1 million people) were Germans and just under 48% were foreigners (10.1 million people). The overwhelming majority of the foreign population with a migration background immigrated themselves (85%); for Germans with a migration background it was 46%.

Slightly more than half of the 11.1 million Germans with a migration background have had German citizenship since birth (51%). You have a migration background because at least one parent is a foreign, naturalized or (late) repatriate. Another 25% are naturalized, 23% came to Germany as a (late) repatriate and around 1% have German citizenship through adoption.

Share of the total population of people with a migration background in Germany
Migration status Number in 1,000 in %
Total population in private households 81 848 100.0
without a migration background 60 603 74.0
with migration background 21 246 26.0
including Germans with a migration background 11 125 13.6
of which immigrated Germans with a migration background 5 125 6.3
including Germans born in Germany with a migration background 6,000 7.3
including foreigners 10 121 12.4
of which immigrated foreigners 8 556 10.5
including foreigners born in Germany 1 564 1.9

Different definitions of individual federal states

The federal states use their own definitions for their own purposes. According to the definition used in North Rhine-Westphalia up to and including 2010, anyone who has a foreign nationality or who immigrated to the area of ​​today's Federal Republic of Germany after 1949 or has at least one immigrant or foreign parent has a migration background; In the definition applied since 2011, the nationality of the parents no longer plays a role.

The 2016 draft law for a Bavarian Integration Act intended to equate Germans with a migration background to people with a parent or grandparent who immigrated to Germany after the end of the migration movements in connection with the Second World War.

Unless otherwise stated, this article is based on the definition of the Federal Statistical Office.

Use of the term

The term "person with a migration background" is not synonymous with the term " foreigner ", nor is it synonymous with the terms "immigrant" or " migrant ", but is often used incorrectly as follows:

  • Naturalization does not change anything in terms of the status “with a migration background”.
  • There are foreigners who migrated to Germany before 1950 and have not yet been naturalized. According to the original definition of the statistics, neither they nor their descendants are "people with a migration background", but according to the later definition of the Migration Background Collection Ordinance of 2010 they are.
  • People who immigrated to Germany as Germans (mainly ethnic German repatriates , but also children of German parents who happened to be born abroad) are also “people with a migration background” according to the 2005 or 2011 definition.
  • People who were born as Germans in Germany and have German parents can also have a migration background. Conversely, people with a migration background (according to the 2016 definition) did not necessarily migrate themselves.
  • Germans with a foreign parent who never immigrated to Germany have a migration background according to the definition from 2016, but according to the definition from 2005 or 2011 they would not have a migration background.
  • A child of foreign parents born in Germany since January 1, 2000 or later is German under certain conditions, see: Obligation to choose until December 19, 2014, new regulation of the obligation to choose from December 20, 2014 .

The term “migration background” was coined by the Essen-based education professor Ursula Boos-Nünning in the 1990s. The background to the new word was the fact that after the fall of the Iron Curtain, many people from post-communist countries immigrated to Germany who claimed to be granted German citizenship immediately as members of the German people within the meaning of Art. 116 GG and § 6 BVFG . Nonetheless, this population group consisting of Germans had to cope with similar problems as immigrants who had come to Germany as foreigners (e.g. the problem of inadequate command of the German language ). The term “migration background” was also perceived as a solution for cases in which foreigners were naturalized. Because the naturalized persons (like the late repatriates ) are classified under the heading “Germans”, the phenomenon of the consequences of migration cannot be adequately recorded methodologically.

The term then found its way into the public through the Federal Government's 1998 report on children and young people, on which Boos-Nünning was involved. The term has been used increasingly since 2006, especially in response to the fact that most children of foreigners born in Germany have automatically been given German citizenship when they are born since 2000. Before that, people living in Germany who were born abroad or who have parents who moved from abroad since 1950 were usually given the terms “Germans of foreign origin” or “foreigners” or the corresponding nationality (Turks, Italians, Spaniards also in the combination like "German Turk") is used.

When defining the term for the 2005 microcensus, the Federal Statistical Office referred to the fact that the term had been “used for a long time in science and politics” and that “despite its bulkiness, it was being used more and more often.” only the immigrants themselves - d. H. the actual migrants - should count, but also certain of their descendants born in Germany. ”The office admits, however, that it is difficult to use the term“ people with a migration background ”clearly.

The use of the term in definition has also been criticized. At a symposium held by the Berlin Institute for Empirical Integration and Migration Research at the end of 2015 on the use, effect and evaluation of empirical data in the context of the immigration society, the participating experts agreed that the migration background neither "makes it clear who is immigrant in Germany" , nor provide “usable data on membership of a minority”. The social anthropologist Anne-Kathrin Will explained in this context that the use of the term could promote an “ethnically connotated” understanding of being German, according to which “only those who are of German descent are German - despite the reform of the nationality law”.

In the course of the debate about integration policy , the integration of foreigners, immigrants and people with a migration background is often referred to in the current political debate in Germany as "integration of people with a migration background".

The term “migration background” has spread widely in the media and in everyday language, although it is not always used correctly. For example, the term “people with a migration background” often replaces the imprecise term “ foreign fellow citizens ”, which, strictly speaking, has never made sense ( oxymoron ), since foreigners are not holders of civil rights and citizens are not “foreign”. In this case, too, it is easy to overlook the fact that the two terms denote different groups. The confusion becomes even more confusing if the term “person with a migration background” is replaced by the tempting shorter word “ migrant ” and this is then used again elsewhere with a different meaning, for example in a comparison of numbers between social groups.

The term “people with a migration background” was also captured by the mechanism known as the “ euphemism treadmill ”. Many of them now have the same connotations as the term “foreigner”. That is why the word “migration background” was also suggested as “bad word of the year”. The daily newspaper (taz) called on its readers at the end of 2010 to propose a new term. The most frequently suggested were “human”, “foreigner”, “new German”, “immigrant”, “new citizen” and “immigrant” - but none of the suggestions was able to convince the editors: “The fact remains that many would like a different word , but unfortunately there is no really handy item at hand. "

The proposal to introduce “people with a migration background” as a category of police crime statistics (PKS) was violently protested in January 2009.

In the meantime, the term is also used jokingly in the media in non-political contexts (“German words and their migration background”, “Nausea with a migration background”, “King dish with a migration background”). On May 1, 2011 in opened Halberstadt the "Holy exhibition! Strange? Church treasures of the Middle Ages (with a migration background) in the Quedlinburg Cathedral Treasure and in the Halberstadt Cathedral Treasure ".

Synonyms and antonyms

The term immigration history is increasingly being used as a synonym for migration background , for example “people with an immigration history”, which was coined by the former North Rhine-Westphalian integration minister Laschet .

With reference to population groups, the foreign words allochthonous and autochthonous mean the same as “with a migration background” or “without a migration background”. In relation to Germany, the controversial term “ bio- German” is also used for people without a migration background .

It should be noted that the term German of German origin is not an antithesis to the term people with a migration background , because the latter also includes immigrants of German origin with German citizenship (e.g. late repatriates) and their descendants, who therefore fall under both terms. Due to their international roots, children from binational families may also be “Germans of German origin” and “with a migration background”.

The derogatory term passport German is also used for naturalized persons with a migration background . At first, ethnic German repatriates were primarily referred to as German passports who were considered to be German nationalities under the law of their country of origin and who had a privileged legal position compared to other migrants when they acquired German citizenship . Although often perceived as foreign immigrants, they were not legally considered foreigners. The term was later reassessed, especially in circles of the New Right , as a derogatory expression for Germans with a migration background. A “passport German” identity is often contrasted with the concept of ethnic Germans .

Composition of the population groups with a migration background

According to religion

According to the results of the 2011 census , 29 percent of the population with a migration background are Roman Catholic , 15.9 percent are members of a regional Protestant church , 6.5 percent are Christian Orthodox , and 0.5 percent belong to Jewish communities. For the time being, Muslims are included in the category “not belonging to a public religious society”, which makes up 36.1 percent of the population with a migration background.

According to status and generation

According to the Federal Statistical Office, the number of people with a migration background in 2005 was made up as follows:

  • Immigrant foreigners (1st generation): approx. 36 percent
  • Foreigners born in Germany (2nd and 3rd generation): approx. 11 percent
  • Late repatriates: approx. 12 percent
  • naturalized immigrant foreigners: approx. 20 percent
  • People with at least one immigrant parent or parent with foreign nationality: approx. 21 percent

According to the geopolitical origin of the immigrants

Gerald Asamoah , an Afro-German national soccer player, took part in the 2005 campaign “ You are Germany ”.

In quantitative terms, Europe is particularly important for immigration to Germany. 59.9% of those who immigrated since 1950 came from Europe in 2008. 23.5% of them come from the then 27 member states of the European Union. The eleven most important countries of origin in 2008 were:

Extensive statistical material can also be found in the ten graphics of a Spiegel online article from October 17, 2010.

More statistical statements

According to milieu

In 2018, the Sinus Institute divided people with a migration background into ten social milieus , which differ as follows:

Sinus migrant milieus Brief description Population share 2018 (in%)
Status-conscious milieu A career-oriented milieu with traditional roots that aims to achieve material prosperity and social recognition through performance and determination without giving up its references to the culture of origin 12% (approx. 1.8 million)
Traditional working class environment The established traditional milieu of migrant workers and ethnic German repatriates who strive for material security and recognition, which has adapted and maintains its (family) traditions of the country of origin without offending 10% (approx. 1.5 million)

rooted milieu

The archaic, patriarchal, socially and culturally isolated milieu, stuck in the premodern patterns and religious traditions of the region of origin, with clear tendencies towards retreat and isolation 6% (approx. 0.9 million)
Precarious milieu The lower class striving for orientation, home / identity and participation with strong fears for the future, resentment and an often fatalistic attitude towards life that feels excluded and disadvantaged 7% (approx. 1.1 million)

Hedonistic milieu

The young, leisure-oriented lower class milieu with a deficient identity and underdog awareness, looking for fun, entertainment and consumption, which refuses the performance and adjustment expectations of the majority society 8% (approx. 1.2 million)
Bourgeois center The middle of the migrant population who is willing to perform and adapt, identifies with the conditions in the host country, strives for social acceptance and belonging and wants to live harmoniously and securely 11% (approx. 1.7 million)

Pragmatic milieu

The optimistic, performance and family-oriented young mainstream with a joy in technical progress, pragmatic-realistic definition of goals and a high willingness to adapt 11% (approx. 1.7 million)

nice milieu

The individualistic milieu of the fun and scene-oriented nonconformists with a pronounced joy in experimentation, distance from the mainstream and focus on life in the here and now 10% (approx. 1.5 million)
The milieu of the performers The single-minded, multi-optional, globally thinking future optimists with a high affinity for technology and IT, great self-confidence and high style and consumer demands 10% (approx. 1.5 million)

Cosmopolitan milieu

The successful, enlightened educated elite with a liberal and post-material attitude, a multicultural self-image and diverse intellectual interests 13% (approx. 2.0 million)

Social status

Migration background and health

People with a migration background in the living generation have poorer health opportunities . Maternal and infant mortality has increased, infant and young child mortality by 20 percent. Infants and schoolchildren are at greater than average risk from accidents.

Social and epidemiological research repeatedly points out that a special burden on migrants can also be demonstrated in the 2nd and 3rd generation.

In 2014, a representative study for Germany by Donath and colleagues showed that young people with a migration background living in Germany have a significantly higher risk of attempting suicide than their classmates without a migration background (study with over 44,000 young people in the 9th grade in Germany). There are also negative health effects of self-reported experiences of discrimination in people with a migration background. The extent to which migration background represents a medical risk factor for substance consumption that is hazardous to health must be considered in a differentiated manner. It has been shown that young people with a migrant background, for example, rarely binge drinking ( binge drinking ) operate as young people without an immigrant background.

A representative study from 2016 also shows that adolescents with a migration background drink alcohol significantly less often than adolescents without a migration background. However, they had a significantly earlier and higher consumption of tobacco and cannabis than adolescents without a migration background. This was true for both boys and girls.

A study of an average of 15-year-old adolescents with a migrant background showed that the likelihood of binge drinking was positively related to the type of school graduation planned, the independence of the family from state financial support and the assimilation of the adolescent in the current (new) country. The risk of binge drinking among adolescents with a migration background was lower if they or their families preferred attitudes towards segregation from their current country of residence and if there was strong adherence to the traditions of their country of origin.

Migration background and school successes

School successes

In 2014, 30.0% of the population with a migrant background had an Abitur or advanced technical college certificate, compared with 28.5% of the population without a migrant background. At the same time, 46.5% of them do not have a vocational qualification, compared with 21.2% of the population without a migration background.

An OECD study from 2018 looked at the percentage of students (with and without a migration background) who had basic knowledge of science , reading and mathematics . It was found that students with an immigrant background performed significantly worse than native students in both the first and second generation of immigrants. The difference was strikingly large (more than 30 percentage points difference) in Finland, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Sweden and Germany.

Gesemann showed in 2006 that in Germany only 33.9% of foreign pupils attend a secondary school type (Realschule, Gymnasium), while this proportion is 60.8% for German pupils. The proportion of male students of non-German nationality who come from predominantly Muslim countries and attend a secondary school or grammar school varies widely and ranges from 50.2 percent (Iranians) to 12.7 percent (Lebanese). School attendance in secondary schools was also well below average in the group of Turks (26%), who at 43.1% represented the largest group among foreign students.

In 2002, Thränhardt described statements about students with a migration background as "poorly selective and meaningful". There are groups that do very well in the German school system as well as those that do very poorly. The groups of citizens of Italy and Turkey have the least success in school: in addition to a high number of school dropouts, there is also a particularly large group in both groups without any qualifications even if they have completed school (56.1% of Turks and 50.3% of Italians in relation to 9.3% of Germans). The majority of the pupils in these two groups can also be found in the Hauptschule, only smaller percentages attend grammar schools and Realschulen.

On the other hand, students with Spanish, Russian, Polish, Croatian and also Bosnian affiliations include many secondary school students and high school students. They achieve similar school successes as the German students. Likewise, the high school quota of students of Vietnamese origin has been above average for years, as the studies by Beuchling have shown.

For children with an ex-Yugoslav background, the school performance is significantly better than that of their Turkish and Italian classmates, but not as good as that of resettlers and German students (see tables).

Statistically speaking, children with a Greek migration background even go to grammar school more often than Germans. No other immigrant group in Germany is more successful in school than the Vietnamese: Over 50 percent of their students make it to high school. This means that more Vietnamese young people aspire to graduate from high school than Germans.

According to Cornelia Kristen (2002), pupils from some migrant groups receive poorer school grades despite the same performance. These lead to the fact that they have to attend poorer schools.

The grades are the most important factor for the type of school attended, but not the only one. Germans attend secondary school less often than foreigners, even if their grades are equally bad. Instead, they go to secondary school more often. When transitioning to high school, however, there is no longer any effect of nationality if you check the grades. Foreign children especially have poor chances of going to a grammar school or a Realschule if they attend a school with many other foreign children. At such schools they perform worse and achieve lower grades than at socially more heterogeneous schools . In view of the pronounced ethnic segregation tendencies in the German primary school system, this result is of particular importance. Because especially in segregated school systems, immigrant children are particularly likely to end up in elementary school classes, whose student body is composed of relatively homogeneous students at a low level.

In Germany and Austria, the Start scholarship program supports selected young people with a migration background who achieve good to very good school results and are socially committed, whereby a difficult family, economic or personal situation is also taken into account when selecting the scholarship holder.

Different school successes in East and West Germany

In all eastern German federal states there are more high school graduates and fewer special school students among foreign young people than in all western states. In Brandenburg, 44 percent of all young people from abroad leave school with their Abitur. This means that there are even more high school graduates among immigrants than among Germans in Brandenburg. There are early support programs (especially for repatriates) and comprehensive kindergartens.

Results of the PISA study

With the special study Where Immigrant Students Succeed - a comparative Review of Performance and Engagement from PISA 2003 (German title: Where do students with a migration background have the greatest chances of success? - A comparative analysis of performance and engagement in PISA 2003 ) it was determined whether immigrant children in the school system are just as successful as students with German nationality.

A first result was that there was no decisive relationship between the number of immigrant students in the sample countries on the one hand and the level of performance differences observed between immigrant children and native students on the other. This refutes the assumption that a high level of immigration has a negative impact on integration.

In the country comparison of this study, Germany brings up the rear when it comes to the integration of second-generation migrant children. Although the study confirmed that the migrant children were willing to learn and had a positive attitude, their chances of success in the German education system are lower than in any of the other 17 countries examined:

  • On average, migrant children lag behind native children by 48 points; in Germany, however, by 70 points. The differences are greatest in the natural sciences and smallest in reading skills.
  • While in almost all of the other participating countries, immigrant children achieve higher performance points in the second generation, in Germany they drop again extremely: immigrant children of the second generation are around two years behind their classmates. More than 40% of them do not have the basic knowledge of level 2 in mathematics and do similarly poorly in reading skills.

More detailed studies based on the “PISA 2000” study show that the result is not the origin as such, but (in addition to the language spoken in the parental home [Esser 2001; Kristen 2002]) the educational level of the parents, especially the mother Success in education is decisive - a connection that was also established for the local population.

Mathematics credit points for 15-year-old students
Students without a
migration background

First generation students *

Second Generation Students **
OECD average 523 475 483
Germany 525 454 432
* Born abroad, foreign parents
** Born in the survey country, foreign parents

According to this table, the fact that young people of foreign origin who have immigrated themselves achieve better results than young people of foreign origin would be a statistical fallacy. Most of the families of foreign students born in Germany come from Turkey, and migrants of Turkish origin come off particularly badly in PISA. Among the young people who have immigrated themselves, young people from ethnic German families are more represented. These are usually more powerful. So one cannot say that the situation in Germany has deteriorated over the generations. On the contrary: within the individual groups of origin, the educational situation seems to be improving from generation to generation.

For each individual country of origin, young people of foreign origin born in Germany achieve better results than young people born abroad. This is exemplified in the case of young people from the former Yugoslavia and Turkey in the field of mathematics. It applies in a similar way to other groups of origin and the areas of science and reading skills:

Family origin Migration status Credit points
in mathematics
former Yugoslavia born in Germany 472
former Yugoslavia immigrated 420
Turkey born in Germany 411
Turkey immigrated 382
Effects of language-heavy test items

It is possible that the poor performance of young people with a migrant background in PISA is a result of language-heavy test tasks. The tasks at PISA differ in terms of their linguistic emphasis. In particular, tasks that measure technical skills get by with minimal linguistic instructions and little text, while others are very linguistic.

It was examined whether students with a migration background were able to solve less language-intensive tasks better. That was not the case. Instead, the opposite is indicated: students with a migration background do a little better on language-heavy tasks than on relatively language-free tasks. The reasons for this are unclear. It becomes clear that the low mean competence of students with a migration background is not due to poorer results in language-dependent sub-competencies.

Migration background and integration into the labor market

The Network Integration through Qualification has been operating nationwide since January 2005 in order to improve integration into the labor market for people with a migration background. Since January 2011 there has been a support program that creates and promotes structures and process chains in order to improve integration into the labor market.

Various studies and tests show that applications from people whose name suggests a migration background - especially in the case of Arabic-sounding names - are considered less often if they are equally suitable.

After the start of the survey on the migration background (HEGA 07 / 2011-07), the Federal Employment Agency (BA) announced that it is obliged to collect the migration background and to take it into account in its labor market and basic security statistics (Section 281 (2) SGB III , Section 53 (7) sentence 1 SGB II). Answering the questions is voluntary. The data is entered in the central personal data administration (zPDV) and may only be used for statistical purposes. Details of the procedure can be found in the Migration Background Collection Ordinance (MighEV).


The definition of people with a migration background in Austria corresponds to that of the “Recommendations for the 2010 censuses of population and housing” issued by the Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) . Accordingly, people with a migration background are referred to as such in Austria if both parents were born abroad. In addition, a distinction is made between:

  • First generation migrants: people whose own place of birth, like that of both parents, is abroad.
  • Second generation migrants: people whose own place of birth is in Austria and those of both parents abroad.

According to this definition, 1.427 million people in Austria had a migration background in 2008. 1.075 million of them moved to Austria themselves (and thus correspond to the first generation of migrants). The remaining 353,000 people were already born in Austria, but both parents' birthplace is abroad. Almost half of the people with a migration background hold Austrian citizenship.

However, the term is also used in the school sector for students with a non-German mother tongue , so that the numbers can easily be mixed up or watered down.


According to the Federal Statistical Office (BFS), a person with a migration background is defined as a person - regardless of their nationality.

  • who immigrated to Switzerland as a migrant ;
  • whose immediate (direct) descendants were born in Switzerland;
  • whose parents were born abroad.

The Federal Statistical Office has collected the following data on the migration status of the approximately 8.1 million inhabitants - but only for residents aged 15 and over: In Switzerland as a whole, 2,374,000 inhabitants (35 percent) have a migration background.

Children of migrants who were born in Switzerland are called secondos there .

On February 12, 2017, the “Federal Decree of September 30, 2016 on the easier naturalization of third-generation foreigners” was adopted in a referendum . The resolution is intended to facilitate naturalization for the grandchildren of immigrants born in Switzerland.

See also

Portal: Migration and Integration  - Articles, categories, and more on migration and integration


Web links

Wiktionary: Migration background  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations




Individual evidence

  1. Migration background (definition). In: bamf.de. Retrieved October 20, 2019 .
  2. a b "People with a migration background"; Section: “Migration background in the narrower and broader sense”. Federal Statistical Office, accessed on May 7, 2017 .
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