Beyond ‘migrant background’: how to select relevant, social justice oriented, and feasible social categories in educational research

Jana Vietze*, Miriam Schwarzenthal, Ursula Moffitt, Sauro Civitillo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Across continental Europe, educational research samples are often divided by ‘migrant background’, a binary variable criticized for masking participant heterogeneity and reinforcing exclusionary norms of belonging. This study endorses more meaningful, representative, and precise research by offering four guiding questions for selecting relevant, social justice oriented, and feasible social categories for collecting and analysing data in psychological and educational research. Using a preregistered empirical example, we first compare selected social categories (‘migrant background’, family heritage, religion, citizenship, cultural identification, and generation status) in their potential to reveal participant heterogeneity. Second, we investigate differences in means and relations between variables (discrimination experiences, perceived societal Islamophobia, and national identity) and academic motivation among 1335 adolescents in Germany (48% female, Mage = 14.69). Regression analyses and multigroup SEM revealed differential experiences with and implications of discrimination for academic motivation. Results highlight the need for a deliberate, transparent use of social categories to make discrimination visible and centre participants’ subjective experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-408
Number of pages20
JournalEuropean Journal of Psychology of Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Prof. Dr. Linda Juang, Prof. Dr. Maja K. Schachner, and the Department of Inclusive Education (University of Potsdam, Germany) for their vital support in the data collection and review of this manuscript.

Funding Information:
This study has been supported by a scholarship to Jana Vietze by the Foundation of German Business (Stiftung der Deutschen Wirtschaft).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).

Research programs



Dive into the research topics of 'Beyond ‘migrant background’: how to select relevant, social justice oriented, and feasible social categories in educational research'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this