Second Generations on the Job Market in France : A Persistent Ethnic Penalty A Contribution to Segmented Assimilation Theory
How consistent over time is the ethnic penalty regarding access to the labor market in France ? We address this issue considering two cohorts of young people who left school in the last decade of the twentieth century. Our results show that, with educational qualifications kept constant, the penalty remains basically similar over the years for young people of North African origin –who were already experiencing difficulties in the 1980s– in spite of relatively favorable labor market conditions and regardless of the ongoing educational expansion. Two other groups were also subjected to a significant penalty : young people of Sub-Saharan African origin and, to a lesser degree, young people of Southeast Asian origin. Over this period, while the improvement of economic conditions benefited most degree-holders, high numbers of young people of North African immigrant origin remained stuck in lower educational positions. The group was overtaken by young people of Portuguese origin, who seem to have gained access to higher educational levels through the extension of vocational education to the lower tertiary level. Such facts would seem to support the idea of “statistical discrimination”, a mechanism based on a given group’s average characteristics. However, the boundary line between this and more overtly racist discrimination remains blurred. In any case, the strong feeling of being discriminated against expressed by young people of North African and black African origins, as well as their pessimistic view of the future, reveals a sharp cleavage within French society –a statement that does not hold, however, for young people of Turkish origin. These pessimistic perceptions may also work to amplify a negative dynamic over the longer term, as shown by longitudinal data available on the second cohort. Our results lead to revisiting the “segmented assimilation” theory as elaborated in the American context, referring to a form of racism specific to American society ; i.e., racism against the black population of slave descent.