PARIS — The children of immigrants are doing their part to become French. The challenge for French society is to let them finish the job.
That was the conclusion of a long-awaited, 615-page report released this month by the National Institute of Demographic Studies about how immigrants and their descendants are integrating into French society.
On a positive note, contrary to popular assumptions, researchers found that a majority of those whose parents came to mainland France after World War II, mostly from former French colonies, embrace their French identity.
Less encouraging were findings that show many of these second-generation French are blocked by barriers — in education, housing and employment — that point to persistent discrimination against the so-called visible minorities, mainly those of African origin.
“In a nutshell, they consider themselves French, but they feel they are not perceived as such, which creates a dissonance between identity and acceptance as a full member of the citizenry,” said Patrick Simon, a demographer and one of the coordinators of the study, “Trajectories and Origins.”
Based on interviews with 22,000 people between the ages of 18 and 60 conducted in 2008 and 2009, the survey extrapolated that 20 percent of that age group in France are immigrants and their children.
The study skirted repeated legal and political obstacles thrown in its path, notably a Constitution-based ban on the collection of information about ethnicity, race and religion. To find proof of family origins, researchers had to get court approval in order to scour thousands of birth certificates.
Now, the study holds the potential to become a landmark — the only similar survey was conducted in 1992 — provided that French officials and institutions take its findings into account.
Mr. Simon has his doubts. “I am not sure our policy makers will build on these findings,” he said.
In the year since Prime Minister Manuel Valls identified a “territorial, social, ethnic apartheid” in France, only three minor measures have been adopted under the label of antidiscrimination, and none address the problem directly.
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