Non-European immigrants are less segregated in Norway than in other northern European countries. One possible reason may be Norway’s settlement policies. (Illustration photo: / Shutterstock / NTB scanpix)

Striking settlement pattern differences among immigrants in Norway and Sweden

Immigrants from non-European countries tend to be more dispersed throughout the country in Norway than they are in Sweden, the Netherlands and Belgium.

A critical issue for new immigrants is how they integrate, and how they are accepted by host communities.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Oslo (UiO) and Stockholm University has compared housing patterns and segregation among non-European immigrants in five northern European countries.

“These immigrant groups are more evenly distributed geographically in Norway and Denmark than in the other countries we examined,” says researcher Adrian Farner Rogne, from UiO.

The researchers are not sure of the reason for their finding. But they think that Norway’s settlement policy for refugees and asylum seekers may have been of great importance.

Norway has the least micro-segregation

The researchers found that Norway clearly has less of what they call micro-segregation than the other four countries they examined.

Researchers found this to be true for two neighbourhood scales, representing 200 or 1600 closest neighbours to each individual.

When they looked at these two scales, they found that non-European immigrants were substantially more evenly distributed among the general population in Norway than in some of the other countries they examined.

There are several possible explanations for this.

One may be that home ownership among Norwegians is high. This may help ensure that immigrants are less consolidated in rental housing than in Sweden, for example.

But another likely explanation is that Norway has had better success with its settlement policy for refugees and asylum seekers than the other countries.

Low unemployment in Norway, which makes it easier for people to get into the labour market, may also play a role.

The researchers point out that many refugees and asylum seekers may have found it attractive to stay in rural Norway, because it is often easy to find a job there compared to in rural areas in other countries.

Oslo is macro-segregated

The researchers found an exception to the pattern of non-European immigrants living more evenly distributed in Norway than in other countries.

Norway’s capital city, Oslo, is characterized by macro-segregation. It has a distinct pattern of macro-level segregation between the eastern and western sides of the city in terms of where non-European immigrants are settled.

A city like Copenhagen is also segregated, but this segregation is spottier, the researchers found.

Most immigrants in Sweden

The proportion of non-European immigrants in the population is lower in Norway and Denmark than in Sweden, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Sweden has the largest non-European immigrant population.

This helps explain why researchers found that the percentage of immigrants in different neighbourhoods is generally lower in Norway and Denmark than in Sweden.

Difficult definition

The researchers came up with their findings by comparing what they called neighbourhoods.

But defining precisely what a neighbourhood is can be tricky — and it can have an influence on the study’s findings. 

“There can be a great deal of variation in people's perception of what defines a neighbourhood. It can be anything from the street or the apartment building they live in, to the hamlet or perhaps the entire village, the district or the municipality,” Rogne says.

Districts and municipalities are also challenging concepts when it comes to comparisons across nations. Different countries can define these terms differently based on size and population.

Detailed information about residences

In this Norwegian-Swedish study, the researchers solved the challenge by using very detailed information about where people lived.

They defined neighbourhoods such as "the 200, 1600, 12 800, and 51 200 closest neighbours of each individual."

This allowed researchers to create defined neighbourhoods that are comparable across national borders. It also allowed them to study the degree of segregation in everything from very small to very large neighbourhoods.

Based on this concept, the researchers found that segregation of non-European immigrants is less in Norway than in Sweden for both small and large neighbourhoods.


Read the Norwegian version of this article at

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