Uta Lehmann presents her paper 'Skilled Iranians in Germany and the United States: exploring migrants' networks' in Parallel session V(C) of the conference Examining Migration Dynamics: Networks and Beyond, 24-26 Sept 2013
Every year 150.000 highly skilled persons leave Iran and seek new opportunities in the United States and Europe (Carrington/Detragiache 1998). A look back at history shows that these migration flows have a long tradition. They first started with educational exchanges in the early 19th century and reached its climax in the year of the Iranian Revolution in 1979. A well-educated Diaspora has resulted as a result of these movements. However, empirical findings indicate that Iranians immigrating to the United States are more successful in sustaining and promoting their educational and professional potential than Iranians coming to Europe. Here, the complex interconnection of influencing factors at the micro-, meso and macro level within a migration system becomes important. One key trait that emerged in my empirical findings is the role of social networks. My paper explores the dynamics of Iranian skilled immigration from a Bourdieuian perspective on social capital and argues that networks serve to overcome structural obstacles in migration. They help to generate social capital, which can be used to transform educational potential into cultural capital that facilitates swift market access.