Living Multi-cultural suburbs

The new report "Levende drabantbyer" (living suburbs) by researchers Ingunn Eriksen and Lars Roar Frøyland investigates multi-cultural adolescents' participation in voluntary organized leisure activities.

Three different Norwegian suburbs have been studied: Veitvet in Oslo, Fjell in Drammen and Saupstad in Trondheim. These suburbs are all considered multi-ethnic and dominated by inhabitants from low income groups. Also a long standing finding is that youth participation is lower here than in the national average. The study is based on in depth interviews (qualitative interviews) with adults who work in the voluntary sector in the suburbs. Also information from the Ungdata-surveys between 2013-16 is used.

The researchers have investigated the extent of youth participation, and how organizations and local authorities are working to recruit youngsters for various leisure activities in multicultural neighborhoods.

A important finding is that minority girls are especially unlikely to participate in local youth activitiesIt is sports that dominates as the major activity in all three suburbs. And it is notably in sports that gender plays a role for minority families, often dissuading girls from engaging in it. The researchers find that if one or both parents are immigrants, about half as many girls engage in sports and other organized activities as when both parents are Norwegian. Moreover, religion or overt refusal cannot by themselves explain this lack of participation. The researchers hint at more subtle mechanisms in the day to day "family-practices".

But not only gender determines youth sports activities. The researchers cite other studies showing that participation in sports is more likely to be high when the youth comes from a high income family. Yet on the contrary, other types of activities has a more broad participation from all types of income families. In the three suburbs, and especially in Veitvet and Fjell, the Youth Clubs (" Fritidsklubber") are more strikingly popular than is the norm elsewhere in the cities. In Veitvet, the Youth Club started courses in mathematics and job application. The reason for this was that the employees noted a new seriousness among the youngsters to school results. Doing well in school is increasingly important and gives status. This is seen as a very different youth trend in attitudes compared with the recent past. Taken this into account, the Youth Club reinforces this with school related activities as well.

Mosques and libraries also appear to be important arenas for socialization and activity. Concerning Mosques, these are providers of a wide range of social activities, not just religious activities. The researchers point out that this role of Mosques has been little studied and researched.

The researchers find that some progress has been made to attract minority youths to such leisure activities. They find a greater understanding of incentives and limitations, like lack of trust in public institutions, than in previous studies from 2012. It seems that those who work in the voluntary sector have become better at their job in recruiting youngsters. Firstly, they find a more prominent understanding that the activities must be relatively cost free. Another condition for recruiting is that minority parents also be included for the children to be recruited. This is even more so the case for minority girls, who are less partaking to begin with. Thirdly, the researchers find an increased awareness on the importance of networking, especially within traditional organizations, youth clubs, sports and library. Also an improvement in information sharing is noted compared with the recent past.

In this connection the municipality´s efforts like " Groruddal-satsningen" are judged to have played a positive role in the improved interaction. However, networking between traditional organizations and immigrant organizations are not as good as could be yet. That is an area the researchers find can be far better developed for the future.

- Minati Bye