Schoolmates…but also friends? Analysis of closed friendship networks between Italian and foreign pupils

Laura Terzera, Università Milano, Bicocca
Giulia Rivellini, Università Cattolica, Milan

The increasing presence of foreign residents in Italy is transforming the sum of men and women workers into a population in demographic terms, where young people – currently the underages are over 1/5 of foreign population – play an important role in society and in in the process of integration. Among all the factors useful for describing empirically the process of integration, the analysis of friendship relationships show a not yet widely explored and full of interesting implications perspective. The school attended by native and foreign pupils represent a privileged observatory to analyse social relationships: in daily life at school the young immigrants may play the role of “integration vehicles” transferring to their ethnic communities new cultural and social models and at the same time offering to natives important opportunities for enrichment. Friendly and day-to-day contact with classmates of other ethnic backgrounds is argued to break down existing inter-ethnic prejudice and thereby reduce inter-ethnic tension and antagonism. This should reduce pupils’ inclination to restrict their personal relationships to people of the same ethnic group, and thus generate more intra-ethnic relationships. Thanks to a survey conducted during 2006 on over 17000 pupils (Italian and foreign) attending secondary school in Lombardy (where Lombardy - NUTS 2 - is the most foreign-populated region in Italy, with about ¼), this study intends to investigate the friendship relationships observed in schoolclasses and how the actors’ (pupils) characteristics (individual, family and migratory) support inter-ethnic social relations. The data on closed friendship networks are collected asking to indicate persons (belonging to the class) with whom the pupils have a good friendship relation. In this contribution we use the statistical models applied in social network analysis. Following this approach we are able to estimate the actors’ and structural effects on the friendship ties’ presence.

  See extended abstract

Presented in Session 69: Education and Migration Process