Marriage Migration and Integration

This project was funded by the ESRC. Dr Katharine Charsley was the Principal Investigator for this project leading a team of researchers. The co-investigators were Dr Sarah Spencer and Dr Hiranthi Jayaweera (COMPAS, Oxford). Dr Marta Bolognani was the qualitative researcher on the project. Evelyn Ersanilli, University of Oxford conducted analysis of the Labour Force Survey. The project lasted for 26 months.

About this research

Spouses constitute the largest category of migrant settlement in the UK. In Britain, as elsewhere in Europe, concern is increasingly expressed over the implications of marriage-related migration for integration. In some ethnic minority groups, significant numbers of children and grandchildren of former immigrants continue to marry partners from their ancestral homelands. Such marriages are presented as particularly problematic: a 'first generation' of spouses in every generation may inhibit processes of individual and group integration, impeding socio-economic participation and cultural change. New immigration restrictions likely to impact particularly on such groups have thus been justified on the grounds of promoting integration. The evidence base to underpin this concern is, however, surprisingly limited, and characterised by differing and often partial understandings of the contested and politicised concept of integration. This project combined analysis of relevant quantitative data sets, with qualitative research with the two largest ethnic groups involved (Indian Sikhs and Pakistani Muslims), to compare transnational ‘homeland’ marriages with intra-ethnic marriages within the UK. 

The findings suggest that relationships between marriage migration and processes of integration are more complex than previously recognised. The findings from the project - set out in the report and briefing papers below - enhance understanding of the relationships between marriage-related migration and the complex processes glossed as integration, providing new opportunities for both policy and academic debates.


The MMI report was cited in the Casey Review into Integration and Opportunity, and the Integrated Communities Strategy Green Paper. The model of integration developed in the project was used as the conceptual foundation for the University of Oxford’s ‘Inclusive Cities’ Knowledge Exchange project, and cited in the Home Office’s 2019 ‘Indicators of Integration’ tool kit.

The MMI project led to two areas of follow-on work:

1. On integration support, including the neglected experiences of migrant husbands.

Working with, two ESRC Impact Acceleration awards piloted pre-migration language and integration courses for men in Pakistan, leading to QED’s successful AMIF application for funding for a more general integration support scheme.

2. On couples and families kept apart by the UK family immigration system.

The Brigstow Institute-funded project ‘Kept Apart – making prose-poetry with people separated from families by the  immigration system’ explores the dis-integrating impacts on couples and families in this position, and was cited in the House of Lords debate on post-Brexit immigration regulations.

Reports and Briefing Papers:

The book from the project is now available and you also can watch our book launch.

The model of integration developed in the project is outlined here:

Download a short briefing on Marriage and Migration: facilitating the integration of migrant spouses (PDF, 173kB)

Download the end of project report: Marriage, Migration and Integration: final report (PDF, 1,780kB)

Follow-on Projects:

Policy Bristol report on ESRC IAA projects.

Kept Apart’, Brigstow Institute project.

Read the Kept Apart multimedia ebook.

Or a short briefing on the policy implications of Kept Apart.


Related research centre

Centre for Ethnicity and Citizenship

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