This dissertation examines the determinants of life chances through sociological analysis. It studies aspirations or plans, i.e. where an individual wishes to see herself in the future, and how she envisages the possibility that future might materialise. This sheds insights on how individuals view their potential success in society, which may or may not reflect their actual lived success. The resources that emerge from an individual’s social networks (social capital) and involvement in diverse cultural activities (cultural capital) can improve life chances when skills, certifications and work experience by themselves are insufficient to get by in society. Last but not least, identity is crucial to life chances in how it reflects an individual’s view of the self in terms of various categories (people like “them” and “us”). As with aspirations, studying identity enriches our understanding of an individual’s view of the possibility of becoming an equal and respected member of society.
The dissertation comprises four original research papers comparing these determinants for young people with and without an immigrant background in Sweden. Rather than studying “immigrants” as a singular and fixed social attribute, it examines identity groups, mixed unions and certain ethnic categories: Iranians, Yugoslavians and native-born Swedes. Drawing on rich empirical materials, it sheds insights on the complexities of social integration in Sweden. It finds that young people with immigrant background are part of multiple social circles (e.g. transnational ties, ethnic minority groups and natives) rather than simply becoming part of or similar to natives over time. This multidirectional view of social integration allows us to examine the distribution of occupational networks through social and geographical ties and to assess which groups are more advantaged than others. It shows us that young people with an immigrant background are not entirely “disadvantaged”, in contrast to the stereotypical view common in media and politics. Even people with explicitly invandrare (“immigrant”) identity are able to resist adverse conditions because of their ability to maintain self-confidence and access a certain amount of social capital.