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Measures and Their Countermeasures: Reflexivity and Second‐Order Reactivity in Quantifying Immigrant Integration

Sociological Forum

Published online on


["\nSociology is inherently reflexive. It deals with actors who themselves are constantly engaged in sociological reasoning. Concepts from academic sociology are thus prone to enter and affect the very dynamics they describe. The sociology of quantification is particularly attuned to such paradoxical effects of “reactivity,” that is, measurements and categories altering observed realities. The article builds on these insights but extends them by adding one more iteration of reflexivity. Examining administrative integration departments in Germany that have implemented statistical indicators for measuring immigrant incorporation, it attends to a case where bureaucrats are themselves anticipating “reactivity” of the measurements they use. Integration officers fear that integration indicators may inadvertently reify and stigmatize the statistical category of first‐ to third‐generation immigrants, or “persons with a migration background.” Consequently, they engage in various counterstrategies to offset such effects. Most notably, they launch a counter‐campaign against negative connotations of migration background that their own measurements are reinforcing as they frame migration background as an asset for society. The article argues that this is an example of second‐order reactivity, a phenomenon as yet neglected in the literature: Officers alter reality in reaction to an anticipated reactivity of their own integration statistics.\n", "Sociological Forum, EarlyView. "]