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Mixed marriages in Switzerland: A test of the segmented assimilation hypothesis


  • Gina Potarca

    (Université de Genève)

  • Laura Bernardi

    (Université de Lausanne)


Background: Switzerland hosts one of the largest and most diversified migrant populations in Europe, while currently reinforcing restrictive immigration policies. Knowledge on Swiss immigrant-native marriages, as ultimate signposts of integration, is limited. Objective: We explore the role of origin group and birth cohort in the emergence and dissolution of mixed marriages in Switzerland among both natives and immigrants. Methods: Based on a sample of 12,827 respondents from the 2013 Swiss Family and Generations Survey, we fit competing-risks models for entry into first marriage, and Cox proportional hazards models for entry into (first) divorce. Results: We find evidence of a segmented marriage market, with migrants from neighbouring Western European countries having higher chances of getting and staying married to a Swiss native. As opposed to natives, migrants from younger cohorts are progressively less likely to intermarry. Conclusions: In line with segmented assimilation claims, results suggest differences in integration pathways between immigrant groups. Findings also point to the reactive ethnicity of marginalized groups (e.g., Turks and ex-Yugoslavs) in response to an increasingly hostile immigration climate. Decreasing (inter)marriage with natives among young immigrants reflects shifting marriage market conditions over the last decades. Contribution: Drawing on rich data, we provide an extensive investigation of intermarriage in Switzerland by examining outcomes of both occurrence and longevity, for both native and immigrant groups. The study focuses on a context with significant recent transformations in population composition and immigration climate, making it compelling to test integration theories and investigate how different groups, as well as younger (versus older) cohorts, intermarry in reaction to such changes.

Suggested Citation

  • Gina Potarca & Laura Bernardi, 2018. "Mixed marriages in Switzerland: A test of the segmented assimilation hypothesis," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 38(48), pages 1457-1494.
  • Handle: RePEc:dem:demres:v:38:y:2018:i:48
    DOI: 10.4054/DemRes.2018.38.48

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Matthijs Kalmijn & Frank Tubergen, 2010. "A comparative perspective on intermarriage: Explaining differences among national-origin groups in the United States," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 47(2), pages 459-479, May.
    2. Tom Kleinepier & Helga de Valk, 2016. "Ethnic differences in family trajectories of young adult women in the Netherlands: Timing and sequencing of events," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 35(24), pages 671-710.
    3. Hill Kulu & Amparo González-Ferrer, 2014. "Family Dynamics Among Immigrants and Their Descendants in Europe: Current Research and Opportunities," European Journal of Population, Springer;European Association for Population Studies, vol. 30(4), pages 411-435, November.
    4. Thomas Liebig & Sebastian Kohls & Karolin Krause, 2012. "The Labour Market Integration of Immigrants and Their Children in Switzerland," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 128, OECD Publishing.
    5. Hainmueller, Jens & Hangartner, Dominik & Pietrantuono, Giuseppe, 2017. "Catalyst or Crown: Does Naturalization Promote the Long-Term Social Integration of Immigrants?," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 111(2), pages 256-276, May.
    6. Gross, Dominique M., 2006. "Immigration to Switzerland - the case of the Former Republic of Yugoslavia," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3880, The World Bank.
    7. Hainmueller, Jens & Hangartner, Dominik, 2013. "Who Gets a Swiss Passport? A Natural Experiment in Immigrant Discrimination," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 107(1), pages 159-187, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Tina Hannemann & Hill Kulu & Leen Rahnu & Allan Puur & Mihaela Hărăguş & Ognjen Obućina & Amparo González-Ferrer & Karel Neels & Layla Van den Berg & Ariane Pailhé & Gina Potarca & Laura Bernardi, 2018. "Co-ethnic marriage versus intermarriage among immigrants and their descendants: A comparison across seven European countries using event-history analysis," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 39(17), pages 487-524.

    More about this item


    mixed marriage; immigrants; cultural distance; marriage; divorce; Switzerland; segmented assimilation;

    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • Z0 - Other Special Topics - - General


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