Family and Employment Trajectories among Immigrants and Their Descendants in Europe

Date: 20.02.2024, 13:00
Place: zoom
Hill Kulu, University of St Andrews

Hill Kulu, University of St Andrews

Over the past decades, European countries have witnessed increasing immigration and ethnic heterogeneity of their populations. This presentation gives an overview of the results of the MigrantLife project ( The focus is on family and employment trajectories among immigrants and their descendants in the UK, France, Germany and Sweden. Our research supports significant heterogeneity in family trajectories among immigrants and their descendants in Europe.


 This heterogeneity is reduced among the descendants of immigrants, although some patterns observed for immigrants persist among the descendants’ groups (e.g. preference for marriage), whereas others have almost vanished (e.g. large families). The results show that migrant background is strongly associated with partnership patterns, whereas the destination country context significantly influences childbearing behaviour. This suggests that while cultural-normative factors are important in shaping partnership behaviour of immigrants and their descendants, structural-economic factors may play a more important role in fertility decisions.

The study of employment trajectories shows that most immigrant men are in education or in full-time employment after arrival, whereas many women stay inactive, especially among family migrants.


Although the differences are reduced among the descendants of immigrants, employment levels are low for women of some minority groups. Importantly, the gender differences are larger for immigrants and their descendants than for the native population (with two native-born parents).

The results suggest the lack of opportunities for migrant and minority women with children, although cultural preferences may also explain low employment levels among some groups. We discuss the results in the light of competing theories of immigrant and ethnic minority integration: the classical theory of assimilation vs the segmented assimilation theory.

About the speaker:


Hill Kulu is Professor of Human Geography and Demography at the University of St Andrews. He was trained in Economic Geography at the University of Tartu (MSc in 1993). He received his PhD from the University of Helsinki in 1997. Over the years, Hill has worked at the University of Tartu (1997–2002), the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1999), the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (2003–2007) and the University of Liverpool (2008–2016).  


 Hill’s substantive research interests lie in the field of migration, family and health studies; his methodological interests include the application of longitudinal models in demographic research. This research has advanced our understanding of how family changes and migration interact in people’s lives and how residential context shapes childbearing, migration and health behaviour of individuals. He has published over eighty peer-reviewed articles in international journals and has edited six books or journal special issues.

Currently, he is leading two collaborative research projects.

The ERC funded MigrantLife project (2019–2025) investigates life trajectories of immigrants and their descendants in Europe and will project future trends. The FertilityTrends project (2019–2023) is funded by ESRC.

This project  examines recent fertility trends in the UK and improves methodologies for fertility forecasting. Hill is President of the European Association for Population Studies, a Co-Director of the ESRC CPC-Connecting Generations Centre (2022–2027) and a Co-Editor of Population Studies. He is also a member of the Expert Advisory Group on Population and Migration at the Scottish Government.

Last but not least, Hill enjoys teaching population and methods courses at the University of St Andrews and supervising an international team of research fellows and PhD students

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