Researcher: Immigrants adapt to Swedish values relatively quickly

After having lived in Sweden for ten years, immigrants tend to have the same attitudes as other Swedes in terms of the importance of family, leisure and politics. They also adapt their values when it comes to aspects such as religion, social trust, and freedom of choice, albeit at a slower pace. This is shown by economist Olle Hammar in the SNS report “The Attitudes and Values of Migrants.”

In the report, Olle Hammar analyzes survey data on values and attitudes related to individualism and income differences in a global sample of migrants from countries all over the world. His results show that the culture in the country of origin initially affects the views of these migrants about economic inequality and redistribution. Gradually, however, the impact of the culture in their new country starts to take over.

Olle Hammar also presents survey data from the ongoing study Migrant World Values Survey, which includes a large sample of non-European immigrants in Sweden (about 8,000 individuals), primarily originating from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, and Turkey. According to preliminary results, immigrants have the same views on the importance of family, leisure and politics as the average Swede after ten years in the country. However, when it comes to religion, social trust, and freedom of choice (e.g., the views on homosexuality, abortion, and divorce), this process takes longer time. For these values, the gap has roughly decreased by half during the same period.

“Since some cultural dimensions are also linked to values protected by Swedish law, more efforts from the society may be needed if one wants to speed up this type of value-related integration. As value-related integration generally occurs faster among young people, early education can probably play an important role for this,” says Hammar.

About the author and the report

Olle Hammar has a Ph.D. in economics and is a researcher at the Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN) and the Institute for Futures Studies. His research concerns issues related to economic inequality, migration, and culture.

The report SNS Research Brief 80: The Attitudes and Values of Migrants is based on the chapter “The Cultural Assimilation of Individualism and Preferences for Redistribution” in Olle Hammar’s dissertation The Mystery of Inequality: Essays on Culture, Development, and Distributions, and on survey data from the ongoing project Migrant World Values Survey, which is conducted within the framework of World Values Survey. The first results from this project have been summarized in two research reports in Swedish: Med migranternas röst: Den subjektiva integrationen (2019) and Med migranternas röst II: Hur blir man värmlänning? (2021), both written by Bi Puranen at the Institute for Futures Studies.