Out-of-school social activities among immigrant-origin children living in Ireland

December 15, 2017

Economic and Social Studies, Vol. 48, No. 4, Winter 2017, pp. 419-439

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In recent years, the children of immigrants have become an integral part of the Irish national tapestry. This article sheds light on their social engagement outside the formal education system by exploring sports and cultural participation among the children of immigrants. Participating in sport, fitness and cultural pursuits provides children and young people with opportunities for enjoyment and social interaction and may ultimately strengthen community cohesion. In addition, cultural participation outside school has been found to enhance engagement and academic progress within school. The findings show that, at nine years of age, immigrant-origin children are less likely to take part in organised sports or structured cultural activities (such as music or dance classes) than their Irish peers. The participation gap is greater for those from non-English-speaking backgrounds and those whose families are from Eastern Europe, Africa or Asia. The gap between immigrant and Irish children’s leisure participation reduces over time, although involvement at nine has a notable influence on participation at 13 and involvement among Asian young people remains lower than among other groups. Lower self-reported popularity levels among immigrant-origin 13-year-olds are largely explained by lower levels of involvement in organised sports. The findings therefore have implications for ensuring the inclusion of immigrant children in out-of-school activities and for their integration more generally.