Volume 38 - Article 48 | Pages 1457–1494

Mixed marriages in Switzerland: A test of the segmented assimilation hypothesis

By Gina Potarca, Laura Bernardi

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Date received:01 Feb 2017
Date published:24 Apr 2018
Word count:5737
Keywords:cultural distance, divorce, immigrants, marriage, mixed marriage, segmented assimilation, Switzerland


Background: Switzerland hosts one of the largest and most diversified migrant populations in Europe, while currently reinforcing restrictive immigration policies. Knowledge on Swiss immigrant-native marriages, as ultimate signposts of integration, is limited.

Objective: We explore the role of origin group and birth cohort in the emergence and dissolution of mixed marriages in Switzerland among both natives and immigrants.

Methods: Based on a sample of 12,827 respondents from the 2013 Swiss Family and Generations Survey, we fit competing-risks models for entry into first marriage, and Cox proportional hazards models for entry into (first) divorce.

Results: We find evidence of a segmented marriage market, with migrants from neighbouring Western European countries having higher chances of getting and staying married to a Swiss native. As opposed to natives, migrants from younger cohorts are progressively less likely to intermarry.

Conclusions: In line with segmented assimilation claims, results suggest differences in integration pathways between immigrant groups. Findings also point to the reactive ethnicity of marginalized groups (e.g., Turks and ex-Yugoslavs) in response to an increasingly hostile immigration climate. Decreasing (inter)marriage with natives among young immigrants reflects shifting marriage market conditions over the last decades.

Contribution: Drawing on rich data, we provide an extensive investigation of intermarriage in Switzerland by examining outcomes of both occurrence and longevity, for both native and immigrant groups. The study focuses on a context with significant recent transformations in population composition and immigration climate, making it compelling to test integration theories and investigate how different groups, as well as younger (versus older) cohorts, intermarry in reaction to such changes.

Author's Affiliation

Gina Potarca - Université de Genève, Switzerland [Email]
Laura Bernardi - Université de Lausanne, Switzerland [Email]

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

» Co-ethnic marriage versus intermarriage among immigrants and their descendants: A comparison across seven European countries using event-history analysis
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» First and second births among immigrants and their descendants in Switzerland
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» Preface to the Rostock Debate on Demographic Change
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» Meanings and attitudes attached to cohabitation in Poland: Qualitative analyses of the slow diffusion of cohabitation among the young generation
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