Poverty and Overcrowding among Immigrant Children in an Emerging Destination: Evidence from Finland

Abstract

This paper aims to analyze the patterns of poverty and housing overcrowding among immigrant children in Finland. We seek to explore whether and to what degree foreign-born children are disadvantaged relative to native children in terms of income poverty and overcrowded housing. Another main objective is to study the patterns of immigrant child poverty and overcrowding in the first years of settlement. We distinguish between four different types of poverty trajectories in the first 5 years after arrival in Finland: (1) no experience of poverty; (2) poor in up to two out of 5 years following arrival (mostly non-poor); (3) poor in three or four out of 5 years following arrival (mostly poor); and (4) poor in all 5 years (chronic poverty). An analogous classification is applied when looking at housing overcrowding. We use data from a compilation of Finnish registers, which contain annual information on all individuals who resided in Finland at any point between 1995 and 2014. The results of a series of logistic regressions show that the disadvantage of immigrant children relative to native children is more pronounced in terms of income poverty than in terms of housing. The most frequent outcome in terms of income poverty in the first years of settlement is no experience of poverty, followed by chronic poverty, i.e., poverty in all 5 years after arrival. The same patterns are found for overcrowding. The multivariate analyses, based on generalized ordered logistic regressions, show substantial heterogeneity across immigrant groups.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We include only foreign-born children who stayed in Finland for at least five full consecutive years. The outcomes for the children who leave Finland before that are on average slightly less favorable than those of children who stay in Finland. However, the difference is not large enough to affect the main conclusions of this study.

  2. 2.

    The output of a generalized ordered logistic regression is similar to that of a series of binary logistic regressions. In our poverty analysis, the first panel in Table 1 contrasts outcome 1 with outcomes 2, 3, and 4 (therefore labeled “at least some poverty vs. no poverty”); the second panel contrasts outcomes 1 and 2 with outcomes 3 and 4 (therefore labeled “mostly poor or chronic poverty vs. more favorable outcomes”); and the third panel contrasts outcomes 1, 2 and 3 with outcome 4 (therefore labeled “chronic poverty vs. more favorable outcomes”). The output of the overcrowding analysis is organized in the same manner.

  3. 3.

    Excluding these children from the poverty analysis does not affect the main conclusions. The poverty trajectories of the children excluded from the overcrowding analysis are fairly similar to those of the included children.

  4. 4.

    One shortcoming of information on education in Finnish registers is that it is not possible to distinguish between individuals with less than upper secondary school and individuals for whom the education level is unknown. This is why they are considered a single group in this study.

  5. 5.

    For the detailed regional classification, see: http://tilastokeskus.fi/meta/luokitukset/maakunta/001-2017/index_en.html

  6. 6.

    Foreign-born individuals of Finnish ancestry born in the former USSR belong primarily to the Ingrian-Finnish community. Although officially considered returnees (Liebkind and Jasinskaja-Lahti, 2000), the parents of most of these children never lived in the area defined by the present-day borders of Finland. This is an important distinction from the children of Finnish-born migrants returning from Sweden or other Western countries. This is why, in this paper, the children with Finnish backgrounds born in the former USSR are, depending on their reported native language, assigned to the groups “former USSR, Finnish language” or “former USSR, Russian language”.

  7. 7.

    In order to avoid the collinearity between arrival cohorts and immigrant groups, children born in the countries that gained independence in the 1990s are also assigned to the group defined by the borders of former countries, i.e., the USSR or Yugoslavia. For instance, an Estonian-speaking child born in Estonia in 1995 is classified as “former USSR, Estonian language”.

  8. 8.

    Results not reported, but can be obtained upon request

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Strategic Research Council of the Academy of Finland, decision number 293103, for the research consortium Tackling Inequality in Time of Austerity (TITA), by the Academy of Finland Flagship Programme, decision number 320162, and by the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working life and Welfare (FORTE), grant number 2016-07105. The paper benefited from the comments of two anonymous reviewers, and from a presentation at the European Population Conference in Brussels in 2018.

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Correspondence to Ognjen Obućina.

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Obućina, O., Ilmakunnas, I. Poverty and Overcrowding among Immigrant Children in an Emerging Destination: Evidence from Finland. Child Ind Res (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12187-020-09743-7

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Keywords

  • Child poverty
  • Child migrants
  • Immigrant housing
  • Overcrowding
  • Finland