The politics of diversity: Social and political integration of immigrants in Iceland


  • Þorgerður Einarsdóttir
  • Thamar M. Heijstra
  • Guðbjörg Linda Rafnsdóttir



Citizenship, diversity, integration, immigrants, participation.


The ethnic diversity of modern states raises the question of where successful countries are in terms of immigrant inclusion. The number of immigrants in Iceland has increased significantly since 2004, and by the end of 2016, immigrants made up around 10% of the population of Iceland. Research reveals a gap between immigrants and natives in terms of social and political inclusion. This paper examines the social and political integration of male and female immigrants in Iceland via comparisons with the native population. We ask how native Icelanders and people with a non-Icelandic background experience their social position and political participation within Icelandic society. We focus on political efficacy, ideas about what makes a good citizen, and subjective status position as indicators of the degree of social and political integration. We use data from the 2014 International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) on Citizenship, which is based on a random sample of 2,000 individuals and random samples of 600 individuals each targeting two of the largest immigrant groups in Iceland—Lithuanians and Poles—as well as the largest Asian immigrant group: Filipinos. Although the findings show integration of immigrants up to a certain extent, the differences between Icelandic and non-Icelandic participants are apparent and include certain disadvantages for participants with a foreign background. Although other variables—such as income, education, paid employment status, and age—play a larger role in social and political status than foreign nationality, the findings of this study suggest that there is room to improve the integration of immigrants in Iceland.

Author Biographies

Þorgerður Einarsdóttir

Professor, University of Iceland.

Thamar M. Heijstra

Assistant professor, University of Iceland.

Guðbjörg Linda Rafnsdóttir

Professor, University of Iceland.




How to Cite

Einarsdóttir, Þorgerður, Heijstra, T. M., & Rafnsdóttir, G. L. (2018). The politics of diversity: Social and political integration of immigrants in Iceland. Icelandic Review of Politics & Administration, 14(1), 131–148.

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