What is a school environment

University of Cologne

A study by the University of Cologne shows that ethnic inequality in access to grammar school not only affects the educational and career paths of students with a migration background, but also shapes their identities and friendships. The study by Dr. Hanno Kruse and Professor Dr. Clemens Kroneberg from the University of Cologne was published in the American Journal of Sociology. She investigated the question of which schools pupils with a migration background feel as German. In addition, it was examined to what extent this identification is important for their friendships with young people without a migration background.

The study revealed pronounced local differences: in areas where young people with a migration background rarely attend grammar school, they feel more like Germans at grammar school. In addition, this identification is increasingly associated with friendships with classmates without a migration background. Those who hardly feel like German are less likely to be friends with classmates without a migrant background - social integration at high school tends to be linked to feeling like German.

In areas where young people with a migrant background are also well represented in grammar schools, however, these connections are not found: grammar school students with an immigrant background do not have an increased tendency to feel as German. In addition, the identification as German is not relevant to the extent to which they are socially accepted by classmates without a migration background.
The study, which was carried out by Professor Clemens Kroneberg as part of the ERC Starting Grant project “Social Integration and Boundary Making in Adolescence” (SOCIALBOND), combines for the first time administrative spatial data on all secondary schools in Germany with extensive survey data on identities and friendship networks at 144 selected schools .

Kroneberg interprets the results as follows: “Where there is hardly any ethnic diversity at grammar schools, a national leading culture seems to dominate. Young people with an immigrant background tend to identify strongly as Germans, and this is also relevant for their social integration in the school class. Other school types and grammar schools in areas with greater educational equality, on the other hand, tend to be 'schools of diversity', in which the question of identifying as Germans is less important. "

However, identifying as German is not just a question of the local context: the study also shows that Muslim schoolchildren often have difficulties in feeling German - regardless of the otherwise effective influences of the local context. Professor Kroneberg says: “Research to date shows that Muslim citizens feel more often than they are foreign or do not belong to the German majority society. Such demarcations are certainly a factor that makes identification difficult. This overall social influence seems to be so strong that it overrides the influence of the local school context. "

Content contact:
Prof. Dr. Clemens Kroneberg
Institute for Sociology and Social Psychology (ISS)
+49 221 470-4406

Press and communication:
Sarah Brender
+49 221 470-1700

To the publication:
Kruse, Hanno and Clemens Kroneberg, 2019: More than a Sorting Machine: Ethnic Boundary Making in a Stratified School System. American Journal of Sociology 125 (2): 431-484.