The Muslim effect on immigrant integration in France

Excerpts from an article at The Washington Post:

This summer, the Monkey Cage ran a series of posts debating whether the news about Muslim integration in France was good or bad. On one hand, scholars have argued that large proportions of Muslims claim they feel French. Yet others have emphasized instead that Muslims in France remain distinctive on a number of key integration measures…

If we want to be able to say something about Muslim integration in France, and attribute findings to the Muslim factor, rather than the Maghrebi factor, we need to compare Muslim and non-Muslim immigrants from the same region – or better yet, from the same country. By doing so, we gain confidence that any difference in integration we observe is attributable to religious identity rather than to region-of-origin.

Our research, summarized in a forthcoming book (Why Muslim Integration Fails: an inquiry in Christian-heritage societies, Harvard University Press), does just that. It identifies a group of immigrants to France who hail from the same two ethnic groups and the same socio-economic status in Senegal, vary in their religious identity, and migrated to France at the same time (the 1970s) and for the same economic reasons. Furthermore, the historical forces that led some of these Senegalese to convert to Christianity and others to convert to Islam in the mid-19th century were purely accidental. Southwest Senegal, where our sample originates, was penetrated by jihadists and Christian missionaries at the same time.


First, Muslim immigrants in France face discrimination on the job market precisely because of their religious identity. Results from our CV experiment, in which employers responded to matched CV applications that differed solely on the religious identity of the applicant (holding constant the applicant’s Senegalese origins), indicate that a Muslim candidate is 2.5 times less likely to receive a job interview callback than is her matched Christian counterpart. Consistent with such discrimination, our survey of Senegalese Christian and Muslim immigrants in France reveals a significant income gap between the two. Muslim households make, on average, 400 euros less than matched Christian households each month, the equivalent of 15 percent of the average monthly income for France in 2007.

Second, perhaps as a consequence of the first point above, Senegalese Muslims are more attached to their region-of-origin than are Senegalese Christians. They are significantly more likely to travel to Africa, to own a home in Africa and to send remittances back to Africa…

Third, and speaking directly to the debate above, Senegalese Muslims are less attached to their host country than are Senegalese Christians. They express less sympathy toward French people, and are less likely to believe they share much in common with the French.

They are significantly less secular than their Christian counterparts, hence distinguishing themselves in a country that defines itself by its laïcité.

Finally, they express significantly lower trust than do Senegalese Christians toward key French institutions from schools to firms, to the French administration…

Finally and perhaps most disturbingly, these patterns do not improve over time. The distinct separation of Senegalese Muslims from French norms and attitudes is characteristic not just of first-generation immigrants: it persists, and even increases in some instances, when we look at second- and third-generation immigrants as well.