Social position of older immigrants in the Netherlands: Where do immigrants perceive themselves on the societal ladder?

Silvia Klokgieters, Theo G. van Tilburg, D.J.H. Deeg, Martijn Huisman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Older Turkish and Moroccan immigrants are often ascribed a low social position based on their relatively unfavourable educational level, occupational status and income. Yet immigrants emigrated to improve their social position and came from contexts where determinants of social position might be based on different socio-cultural circumstances than those used in the country of settlement. In order to understand immigrants’ own perception of their social position, we interviewed 23 60–68 year old immigrants from Turkish and Moroccan origin in the Netherlands. Using a ten rung ladder, participants were asked to position themselves in the societal hierarchy before migration, after settlement and currently. Most participants positioned themselves at a middle or high position on the societal ladder. Circumstances used for positioning were related to socioeconomic indicators, but also to social affirmation, family, social integration, physical, mental health, happiness and complying to religious prescriptions. When these circumstances were deemed favourable, participants tended to position themselves higher. Our findings also show that the circumstances that participants used for positioning themselves varied across the life course. These findings complement the picture of the often low objective low socioeconomic position of older immigrants and show that immigrants’ perception of their subjective social position reflects a broader set of circumstances than just socioeconomic ones.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-160
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology
Issue number2
Early online date20 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • Life course
  • Older immigrants
  • Socioeconomic circumstances
  • Subjective social position

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