Helen Theodoropoulou and Kosmas C., Petros (2007), “The Socio-Economic Characteristics, Consumer behaviour, and Social Integration of Economic Immigrants in Athens, Greece”, Consumer Citizenship: Promoting New Responses, Building Bridges, Vol. 3, pp. 81 – 94.
Helen Theodoropoulou, Assistant Professor, Department of Home Economics and Ecology, Harokopio University of Athens, Greece
Petros C. Kosmas, Lecturer , Department of Public Administration and European Integration, Varna free University of Nicosia, Cyprus
The present study is an empirical approach to examine the economic and social characteristics of economic immigrants in Athens, Greece, as well as the factors that influence their consumer behaviour and integration in the Greek society. Based on data, derived from a questionnaire survey of 273 immigrants randomly selected out of 957 registered economic immigrants of various nationalities living in Athens, the study examined the factors influencing the social integration of immigrants from the Greek society and their consumer behaviour. The sample population of the study composed of 122 women and 159 men. Their average age was 34.9 years old, their average income per capita was €756.3, and their average number of years of residence in Greece was 8.3 years. The factors influencing their social integration were analysed using a model of logistic regression. It was found that nationality exerts a significant influence on social integration. Immigrants from Eastern European countries showed higher percentage of accession than all the others. The length of residence, the personal relationship with the Greeks, which includes both the adoption of the Greek lifestyle and also the positive attitude of the Greeks towards them, exerts significant influence. The consumer behaviour of economic immigrants was analysed using least squares models. It was found that income exerts a positive influence on food expenditure and immigrants with higher education invest more money on their children education.
Key words: immigration; consumer behavior; integration; Greece
Immigration is the temporary or permanent movement of people from one place to another. According to the neoclassical economic theory the reason for this movement is based on the supply and demand for labour force. People living in places where the labour supply is larger than the labour demand move to places where the local population cannot meet the labour demand in these places. On the other hand, according to the Marxist theory, immigration is due to the abject socio-economic conditions prevailing in a labour’s country of origin. In any way, immigrants move in search of better living conditions. Following the crumbling of the economies in the former Soviet block countries many immigrants moved to Western parts of Europe in search of jobs.
Many studies have shown concern with the processes through which societies and cultures are transformed as a result to immigration and with the reasons why people migrate to different areas. These studies have also been concerned with the role of the political conditions, climate, geography and religion as compared with social and historical circumstances of immigration. Generally, most studies report that the main reasons for immigration are the unemployment levels, the social discrimination and the poor quality of life that many people face in their countries (Iredale et all, 2003; Spencer, 2003; Edwards, 1989; Bade, 1987; Thomas, 1985; Castles and Kosack, 1985; Boehning, 1983).
Some nations are affected significantly by immigration because of the concomitant social and economic changes that come with it. Specifically, demographic changes increased the social and cultural diversity of many areas causing an expansion in the cultural and economic horizons of residents and also producing conflicts in interests, values and lifestyles. On the other hand, the economy of many countries is becoming more diversified as the service sector grows significantly because of the immigration. The dynamics of regional change and the uneven development observed in many countries have been the subject of many studies for immigration policy formulation and program implementation (Haug et all, 2002; Simon, 1999; Holmes, 1996; Jones, 1990).
Devising an immigration policy involves making political choices to ease community adjustments to structural economic changes. The development of these policies requires information on regional trends in economic and social conditions. This information can be drawn from appropriate indicators describing the immigrants life and the conditions of their adjustment in the areas where they settle (Castles and Miller, 2003; King and Black, 1997). More specifically, Greece was the place of destination for many immigrants especially from the Balkan countries (Siadima, 2001). Many of these immigrants seeking a better future, they collectively abandoned their homelands and came to establish themselves in Greece, creating new realignments in its economy. Thus the need for a study of their consumer behaviour is imperative.
Immigrant consumer behaviour is an important research area in a number of fields including marketing, geography, and ethnic studies. While the distinct consumption patterns within an ethnic minority group have always been noticed, it has not until recently received significant attention from either academics or market practitioners. The catalyst for the increasing interest in immigrant consumption is the fast changing ethnic landscape in many metropolitan areas due to accelerated international migration. The size, geographical concentration, and purchasing power of many ethnic populations offer both opportunities and challenges to market practitioners. In academia, recent studies have examined the distinct characteristics and consumption patterns of ethnic minority populations, of which a large proportion are immigrants. Much attention has been focused on the relationship between ethnicity, ethnic identity, and consumption (Donthu and Cherian, 1992, 1994; Venkatesh, 1995; Hui et al., 1998; Rossiter and Chan, 1998; Laroche et al., 1998; Chung and Fischer, 1999), and the impact of acculturation and assimilation on consumption practices (Webster, 1994; Lee and Tse, 1994; Eastlich and Lotz, 2000; Laroche and Tomiuk, 2001). Under the primordial view ethnicity is seen as a static demographic classification based on last name, common origin, race, language, or religion (Stayman and Deshpande, 1989; Webster, 1994). The focus of the academic research examining the consumption patterns and consumer behaviour of immigrants is either the relationship between ethnicity and consumer expenditure patterns for broad categories of consumer goods such as food (Wagner and Soberon – Ferer, 1990) and transportation (Paulin, 1998; Fan and Zuiker, 1994) or the relationship between ethnicity and family budgeting for typical household product categories (Fan and Lewis, 1990). Combining of literature concerning consumption and ethnicity, ethnic economies and consumer spatial behaviour offers a new conceptual framework to describe and analyse immigrant consumer behaviour. The meaning of researching the consumer behaviour of economic immigrants is an important question since economic immigrants constitute also a respectable part of Greek society and for this reason, the determination and the recording of their behaviour are judged necessary.
The objective of the present study was to examine the economic and social characteristics of economic immigrants in Athens, Greece, as well as the factors that influence their consumer behaviour and integration in the Greek society.
2. Data and Method
A questionnaire survey of economic immigrants living in Athens, Greece was carried out during 2005. Investigators visited randomly 957 economic immigrants in the areas where they were working and completed the questionnaires on location. A total of 273 responses were collected.
The composition of the questionnaire was based on international studies (Deshpande et al., 1986; Douthu and Cherian, 1992, 1994; Venkatesh, 1995; Hui et Al, 1998; Rossiter and Chan, 1998; Laroche et Al, 1998; Chung and Fischer, 1999; Wang 2004). The questionnaire comprised five sections namely demographic, educational, employment characteristics, reasons for immigration, and living conditions. The data collected were analysed by using descriptive statistics for calculating the means and standard deviations of continuous variables and the frequencies and percentages of discrete variables. The factors that influence the social integration of economic immigrants in Greece studied, by using logistic regression, while for the investigation of consumer behaviour of economic immigrants in Athens – Greece this study developed least squares models (OLS).
The sample of immigrants was made up of 273 individuals among whom 122 were women and 159 were men. The average age of the respondents was 34.9 years ranging between 19 and 80 years of age. The ethnic composition of the 273 respondents was as follows: 48.3% were of Albanian origin and constitute the overwhelming majority of the sample, 11% were from Arab countries, 7.7% from Romania, 7.4% from China, 6.6% from Bulgaria and 4.7% from Africa. In addition, 4.4% were from Russia and the Ukraine, 4% from the Philippines, 3.7% from Georgia, 1.5% from Poland and just barely 0.7% were from Serbia.
The religious composition of the sample was as follows: The largest segment of the whole sample was Orthodox Christians (55.3%) and 28.6% were Muslims and only 7.7% Catholics. Seven percent of the respondents were Buddhists and on the whole a very small percentage 1.1% were Protestants and Confucians.
The geographical distribution of the immigrants according to their place of residence was as follows: 50.5% of the respondents resided in Central Athens, 30.4% in the Southern Suburbs, 7.7% in the Northern Suburbs and 5.1% in the Western Suburbs. The remaining 6.2% of the respondents resided in the remaining area of Attiki prefecture.
The educational level of the immigrants was mostly high school (50.6%), while for 25.1% was high education and for 16.8% was elementary school. Most of the individuals were not married (56.6%) and the number of children per responder was mostly two (27.5%), while for 14.7% from the total sample was one and for 8.4% was three. 43.2% of the total sample were sending their children to school.
From the entire sample of economic immigrants 43.2% send their children to school. From that portion 78.8% send them to public schools and 5.5% to private schools. Eighty percent declared that they send their children to a Greek school, while just 6.0% send them to a school of their ethnic origin.
Most of the individuals of the sample used their mother tongue at home. Ninety seven percent of the responders watch television and from those 90.8% watch Greek programs, while almost half of them (40.7%) watch also foreign programs. Eighty eight percent listen to Greek radio and 37.7% of them listen also to radios of their ethnic origin. Eighty four percent of the sample declared that they read newspapers. Sixty one percent answered that they read the Greek press and 63.4% of them read also foreign papers.
Most of immigrants (70.3%) keep up the traditions and customs of their country of origin and 74.5% follow the traditions and customs of Greece. Sixty two percent of the total sample felt integrated in the Greek society. From the total sample 37.7% answered that they participate in cultural activities, 45.4% in social activities, 22.0% in political activities and 41.4% religion activities. To the question if they have Greek friends 82.8% answered that they have. To the question if they consume or cook Greek traditional food 89.7% answered that they do. To the question if they feel satisfied by the general behaviour from the natives towards them 89.7% answered positively.
Cross tabulation analysis (χ2) showed that the more immigrants spoke the Greek language the less they reported problems in their social integration, unemployment, or economic exploitation (p<0.00).
The average monthly income per capita of the respondents was €756.3, while the average monthly family income was €1.053. Immigrants considered their monthly income non satisfactory (55.0%). Eighty three percent save up to 500€ per month. Most of the individuals were employed in construction activities (36.6%) and in household activities (39.9%). Furthermore, 93.8% of the respondents worked an average of 8.3 hours per day and 6.0 days per week. Most of the immigrants answered that they were in the same job for the last 10 years (84.0%). The percentage of the respondents who have national health and retirement coverage was 66.3%. Thirteen percent were homeowners, 75.8%, were in rent, and 11.4% were guests in relatives and friends. Sixty five percent had deposit accounts and 8.8% had loans. From those who have taken loans, 45.8% had taken a loan to buy a home and 54.2% had taken a consumption loan. The percentage of the immigrants who answered that they invest their money was 19.4%, out of which 21.2% invest in the bond market, 11.6% invest in the stock exchange and 92.3% invest in real estate.
Cross tabulation analysis (χ2) showed that immigrants’ satisfaction with their income level depended on how long they had worked in Greece. The longer they worked in Greece the more satisfied they were from their income (p<0.00).
Table 1 shows the average expenditure of immigrants. Expenditure for food was 228.50€ which was the 21.71% of the average family income. According to the survey of the National Statistic Service of Greece, 13.2% of the family income goes for food expenditures, which is less by 8.5 units than that of the immigrants.
Table 1. Expenditure averages
|Categories of Expenditures||
|Average Expenditure(€)||(%) of Income per Family Sample|
Social integration in the Greek society
Initially, a binary logistic regression was analyzed to investigate the direct effects of immigrants characteristics variables on the social integration in the Greek society. The dependent variable was measured based on the sample’s responses to a 2-point scale: yes, no to the following statement: » Do you feel integrated or not in the Greek society». The independent variables included the sex of individuals, ethnicity, length of residence in Greece, education, usage of mother tongue, usage of TV, friendship with Greeks, use of the customs of Greece and satisfaction from general behaviour from the natives towards the immigrants.
The equation for the effects of immigrants characteristics variables on the social integration is the following:
Ln(Social integration)= -7,114***+ 0,524Sex +0,997** Nationality + 0,724 Education +0,043 Residency – 0,366Mother tongue +0,851Greek TV + 1,481***Greek Friends +0,989*** Customs of Greece +2,515***Greek Attitude + ei
Where: (*** P-value<0.01 and ** P-value<0.05)
Table 2. List of variables used in the social integration logistic regression model
|Sex of immigrants||Nominal||1 if respondent are men; 0 if they are women|
|Nationality||Nominal||1 if they are from Eastern European Countries; 0 otherwise|
|Education||Nominal||(1if they have bachelor & above; 0 otherwise|
|Residency||Scale||Years of Residence in Greece|
|Mother tongue||Nominal||1 if immigrants use of mother tongue with family; 0 otherwise|
|Greek TV||Nominal||1 if there watch Greek TV; 0 otherwise|
|Greek Friends||Nominal||1 if they have Greek Friends; 0 otherwise|
|Customs of Greece||Nominal||1 if immigrants follow and adapt the traditions and customs of Greece; 0 otherwise|
|Greek Attitude||Nominal||1 if immigrants are satisfied from the general behaviour from the natives; 0 otherwise|
The analysis of the regression model showed that 90,6% of the variance of Social integration was significantly explained by the immigrants characteristics variables. Specifically, Social integration was significantly associated with Nationality (p<0,05), Greek Friends, Greek Attitude and Customs of Greece (p<0,01). Nationality, Greek Friends, Customs of Greece and Greek Attitude were associated with 0,99; 71,481; 2,515 increase of Social integration respectively. These results suggest as Nationality exerts significant statistical influence on social integration. Immigrants from Eastern European countries show higher percentage of integration than all the others. The personal relationship with the Greeks, which includes both the adoption of the Greek lifestyle and also the positive attitude of the Greeks towards them, exerts significant statistical influence on social integration.
Expenditures on Food Product
In the current model the method of Ordinary Least Squares Estimators (O.L.S.) has been used. Expenditure on food product is the dependent variable. It is a variable containing the amount of household expenditure for food products from immigrants. Independent variables include the age of individuals, education, income, children in the family, evaluation store quality, evaluation store price, choice of Greek shops, choice of street markets (Plath and Stevenson, 2005).
The equation for the effects of immigrants characteristics variables on the expenditure on food product is the following:
Ln(Expenditure on food product)= 1.619*** – 0,002Age + 0,037Education +
0,375*** ln Income + 0,361***Children + 0,325***Quality + 0,315**Price – 0,185*Greeks Shop + 0,176*Street Market +ui
Where: (*** P-value<0.01; **P-value<0.05 and * P-value<0.1)
Table 3. List of variables used in the expenditure on food product equation
|Age||Scale||The age of responders|
|Education||Nominal||1 if they have bachelor & above; 0 otherwise|
|Income||Scale||The logarithmic monthly income per capita|
|Children||Nominal||1 if the family have children; 0 otherwise|
|Quality||Nominal||1 if immigrants buy higher quality products; 0 otherwise|
|Price||Nominal||1 if immigrants buy from low prices stores; 0 otherwise|
|Greek Shop||Nominal||1 if immigrants buy from local stores; 0 otherwise|
|Street Market||Nominal||1 if immigrants buy from street market stores; 0 otherwise|
The analysis of the above model showed that 27% of the variance of Expenditure on food product was significantly explained by the immigrants characteristics variables. Income exerts a positive influence on food expenditure. When income increases by 1% then food expenditure increases by 37%. Families with children spend more money on food than families without children. Also, immigrants who prefer high quality products, or choose to shop in low price markets, or choose local shops and street markets tend to spend more on food products than those who do not.
Expenditures on Education
Also, in the current model the method of Ordinary Least Squares Estimators (O.L.S.) has been used. Expenditure on education is the depended variable. It is a variable containing the amount of household expenditure for education. Independent variables include the level of education, religion, income, number of children and manual work.
The equation for the effects of immigrants characteristics variables on the expenditure on education is the following:
Ln(Expenditure on education)= 1,326* + 0,464***Education + 0,255** Religion + 0,333***ln Income + 0,301***Children – 0,202 Manual Work +ui
Where: (*** P-value<0.01; **P-value<0.05 and * P-value<0.1)
Table 4. List of variables used in the expenditure on education model
|Education||Nominal||1 if they have bachelor & above; 0 otherwise|
|Religion||Nominal||1 if they are Christians, 0=other;|
|Income||Scale||The logarithmic monthly income per capita|
|Children||Scale||Number of children|
|Manual Work||Nominal||1 if immigrants are manual worker; 0 otherwise|
The analysis of the above model showed that 23% of the variance of Expenditure on education was significantly explained by the immigrants characteristics variables. Immigrants with higher educational background invest more money on the education of their children than those who have a lower level of education. Christians spend more on child educational purposes than immigrants from other religions. When income increases by 1%, the educational expenditure increases by 24%. As child numbers increase in a family, educational expenses also increase. Manual immigrant workers spend less on child education than those working with their intellect.
Greece was the place of destination for many immigrants especially from the Balkan countries during the 1990s. Unfortunately, the legal framework regarding immigration to Greece at that time was inadequate to confront the flux of immigrants and many immigrants lived in Greece illegally. Appropriate law measures were taken in 2001 that specified the requirements for the entrance and the establishment of immigrants in Greece.
Factors related to the immigrants’ characteristics such as the knowledge of the Greek language, the better educational level, the length of residence and the personal relationship with the Greeks, adoption to the Greek lifestyle were found to affect the social and economical integration of the immigrants in the Greek way of life.
Apparently, immigrants with a good knowledge of the language, longer residency, and better education achieve a better treatment from the Greek society. Therefore, immigrants of low skills and educational level will not be able to integrate in the Greek society. For that reason, it is significant for the immigration policy to take into account those weaknesses and to help these people to adapt to their new life for the sake of a good and productive Greek socio-economic life through special vocational courses mainly to teach the Greek language.
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