2019-03-06Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.18452/20626
The German statistical category "migration background"
Historical roots, revisions and shortcomings
The term “migration background” is commonly used in Germany today, but this neologism is only 20 years old. As an official category, it is even much younger. There has been only little research concerning the new population category, which emerged around the turn of the millennium. Thus, the question how the “migration background” could become the central category describing migration related diversity in Germany is not answered yet. This article fills this gap by exploring the context of the emergence of the “migration background” including the history of ethnic categories in German official statistics. It describes the actual definition of a “migration background” which became an official category in 2007 when the German Federal Statistical Office started publishing data regarding “the population with a migration background” based on the microcensus, a 1% household survey with mandatory participation. The central questions are: how national membership is imagined, how is it inscribed in definitions, and what adaptions had to be made over time? To answer these questions, different sources as questionnaires, publications of results of the microcensus and national reports on children and youth are analysed. Using interpretative methods, it is shown how a new taxonomy of the population in Germany was created, how it was influenced by international and national educational research, and to which extent it reshaped the perspectives on newcomers and natives. It is shown that the new category is tightly bound to citizenship and summarizes a number of older ethnic categories, but excludes also immigrated Germans who immigrated shortly after Second World War and from the former German Democratic Republic. Therefore, the label “migration background” is misleading because inherited citizenship and ancestry is in the centre of the definition rather than migration experience.
Files in this item
This article was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Open Access Publication Fund of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.