This paper reviews the comparative multi-level quantitative research on the links between integration policies, the integration situation of immigrants and a wide range of individual and contextual factors.
Twenty-two reviewed studies and additional supporting articles indicate that a number of individual and contextual variables explain most of the variation between countries in terms of immigrants’ labour market integration, educational attainment, naturalisation and political participation. Thanks to the use of MIPEX and similar indices, some evidence is emerging that certain integration policies can be related to the specific integration outcomes that they aim to address.
So far, only certain general and targeted employment policies can be directly associated with better labour market outcomes for immigrants and a lower incidence of employment discrimination. More indirectly, facilitating naturalisation, a secure residence and a secure family life seems to have positive effects on boosting labour market outcomes for certain immigrants. In the area of employment, studies rarely focus on a specific policy or properly match it to its specific intended target group and outcome.
In the area of education, the inclusiveness of the school and education system seems to matter most for immigrant and non-immigrant pupils. Although targeted immigrant education policies adopted at national level do not display consistent results across countries in terms of pupils’ tests scores, most studies conclude that inclusive schools and education systems are more successful when they also target the specific needs of immigrant pupils.
Several studies on the acquisition of nationality find that naturalisation policies are perhaps the strongest determinant of the naturalisation rates for immigrants from developing countries. Further research can explore which specific elements of naturalisation policies most help or hinder naturalisation.
The few studies on political participation find that targeted policies and the acquisition of nationality may boost participation rates for certain immigrant groups.
The fact that studies find no link between the general integration policy (i.e. MIPEX overall score) and a specific labour market outcome (i.e. employment rates for foreign-born) does mean that no causal relationship exist between integration policies and outcomes across countries. Considering that this multi-level research is still in infancy, studies have great room for improvement in terms of their use of databases and methodological tools.
A more robust methodological approach using new international datasets can better explore the nuanced links between policies and societal outcomes. Future research needs to pay greater attention to linking a specific integration policy with its actual target group and target outcomes. Studies must also take into account time-sensitive contextual factors and general policies. International surveys can improve their measurement of integration policy outcomes in terms of long-term residence, family reunification, anti-discrimination, language learning, and, to some extent, political participation.