Classroom Heterogeneity, Immigration Background, and Juvenile Delinquency in Switzerland: An Exploratory Study

AuthorAnastasiia Lukash,Olga Siegmunt
Published date01 November 2019
Date01 November 2019
Subject MatterArticle
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2019, Vol. 35(4) 484 –505
© The Author(s) 2019
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DOI: 10.1177/1043986219883447
Classroom Heterogeneity,
Immigration Background,
and Juvenile Delinquency
in Switzerland: An
Exploratory Study
Olga Siegmunt1,2 and Anastasiia Lukash3
In this article, we explore the relationship between the heterogeneity of secondary
school classes and juvenile delinquency. The heterogeneity of school classes was
measured by calculating the Herfindahl index of variety in students’ immigration
background. The index was composed of three groups: natives, first-generation
immigrants, and second-generation immigrants. Involvement in 13 forms of
juvenile delinquency, committed during the last 12 months, was our independent
variable. The offenses were grouped into minor, violent, and property offenses.
The data analyzed the national class-based sample of seventh-, eighth-, and ninth-
grade students in Switzerland (n = 4,158) and were collected in 2013 within the
framework of the Third International Self-Report Delinquency Study (ISRD3). In
general, it was found that juveniles are more likely to commit offenses when they
attend school classes with higher heterogeneity, regardless of the nature of the
heterogeneity (i.e., mixture of natives, first-generation immigrants, or second-
generation immigrants). Within the bivariate analysis, the heterogeneity of school
classes relates significantly to involvement in graffiti, vandalism, shoplifting, group
fight, robbery, burglary, bicycle theft, vehicle theft, and personal theft. After
statistically controlling for gender and school grade, effects of class heterogeneity
persist for selected offenses.
1Siberian Federal University, Krasnoyarsk, Russia
2University of Vechta, Germany
3University of St. Gallen, Switzerland
Corresponding Author:
Olga Siegmunt, Department of Deviantology and Criminology, Law Institute, Siberian Federal University,
Maerzaka 6, Krasnoyarsk 660075, Russia.
883447CCJXXX10.1177/1043986219883447Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeSiegmunt and Lukash
Siegmunt and Lukash 485
delinquency, classroom heterogeneity, immigration background, Herfindahl index,
Switzerland, ISRD3
Growing immigration and ethnic diversity is a worldwide phenomenon (Demanet,
2012). Among juveniles attending school in Switzerland, the proportion of students
whose parents were both Swiss-born is, depending on the area where the school is
located, no more than 50% to 60% on average but often below 10% (Killias, 2009).
Ethnic diversity of the school population is associated with different issues, such as
fewer friendships between the students, lower attachments to friends (Demanet, 2012),
and higher prevalence of bullying (Tolsma, van Deurzen, Stark, & Veenstra, 2013). As
stated by Montgomery, Vaughn, Thompson, and Howard (2013, p. 1327), in the mod-
ern diverse world, not taking into account the apparent heterogeneity among juvenile
offenders may be a limiting factor in research. Heterogeneity of ethnic groups can be
measured in different ways. One of the most elementary methods is using the propor-
tion of natives or migrants. Some studies show the importance of considering differ-
ences between migrants of the first and second generation (Agnew, 2006; Bersani,
2014; Bersani, Loughran, & Piquero, 2014). In the current study, these differences will
be considered by using the Herfindahl index to measure the diversity in migration
background within school classes. The Herfindahl index can be used with a small
number of subgroups which have cultural or behavioral differences. In this article, we
provide an analysis of immigration heterogeneity (or heterogeneity in immigration
background with subgroups of native born, first generation, or second generation) in
school classes using the results of the Third International Self-Report Delinquency
Study (ISRD3) in Switzerland.
State of Research
Immigrants in Switzerland
Switzerland is one of the main destinations of immigrants in Europe. In accordance
with data of the Swiss Federal Office of statistics, the number of the permanent resi-
dent population over all age groups was 8,139,631 in 2013 (time of our fieldwork),
where 1,937,447 (23.8%) of people are foreigners (Bundesamt für Statistik [BFS],
2014). The prevalence of foreign population was 24.6% in 2015 (BFS, 2016).
Almost one-third of the children born in Switzerland had foreign citizenship (28%,
in 2013). In 2014, the number of immigrants increased by 10.8% compared with the
previous year (Federal Statistical Office, 2015, p. 7). Due to increasing foreign popu-
lation in Switzerland, this process led to considerable social tensions, and immigra-
tion became one of the most controversial political issues (Linder, 2011). National
crime statistics show that each second perpetrator of violent offenses has no Swiss
citizenship (Polizeiliche Kriminalstatistik, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015). Of course,
it is important to keep in mind that such overrepresentation of non-citizens in the

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