Assessing the national identity and sense of belonging of students in Germany with immigration backgrounds


  • Beatriz Matafora University Duisburg Essen
  • Hermann-Josef Abs University Duisburg-Essen
  • Katrin Hahn-Laudenberg University of Wuppertal



national identity, integration, immigration background, transnationality


  • Students in Germany score low on national identity when it is measured with national symbols
  • Students with immigration backgrounds show lower national identity scores in 20 countries
  • Over 90% of German students with immigration backgrounds feel a sense of belonging to Germany.
  • Research instruments measuring national identity must consider transnationality and fluidity.

Purpose: This paper aims to analyse the data regarding the national identification and sense of belonging of secondary school students with and without immigration backgrounds collected through the International Civic and Citizenship Study 2016. It also assesses whether the research instruments used are suitable for the German context.

Method: Likert scale items measured national identification. Acculturation theory based categories were employed to measure the sense of belonging.  Differences between students across and within countries were assessed using t tests.

Findings: Students with immigration backgrounds tend to present statistically lower scores for the scale ‘attitudes toward country of residence’ in 20 of 24 participating countries. In international comparison, German students with and without immigration backgrounds score relatively low on all five items of the scale. Despite achieving significantly lower scores for national identification, 90% of students in Germany with immigration backgrounds feel a sense of belonging to Germany.

Author Biographies

Beatriz Matafora, University Duisburg Essen

Beatriz Matafora is a research assistant at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany. She is interested in the effects of transnationalism on societal change and the behaviours and attitudes of citizens with immigration background. The main topic of her PhD thesis is the collective identities of students with immigration background. 

Hermann-Josef Abs, University Duisburg-Essen

Hermann J. Abs is a professor in the Faculty of Educatonal Science at the University of Duisburg-Essen. His research focusses on the interplay of societal change and education in the areas of citizenship education and teacher education. 

Katrin Hahn-Laudenberg, University of Wuppertal

Katrin Hahn-Laudenberg is a visiting professor for Social Sciences Didactics at the University of Wuppertal, Germany. She is interested in school related opportunities to learn for the development of political competences. 


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