Ethno-Racial (In)equality in Belgium and Germany: Understanding Policy Frames

This PhD dissertation explores how European countries respond to persisting inequalities faced by ethno-racial minorities. It does so by studying policy frames regarding ethno-racial (in)equalities in Belgian and German education and employment policy. Using a critical race lens, the thesis argues for a move beyond the study of migrant integration towards the study of ethno-racial (in)equality. Through a critical frame analysis of policy documents, the first part of the thesis analyses the prevailing representations of ethno-racial (in)equality as a policy problem in the cases under analysis. It proposes a two-dimensional typology for conceptualising ethno-racial (in)equality policy frames. This typology is inspired by the simultaneous focus on colour-consciousness and socio-economic justice within critical race theory. It distinguishes between colour-blind and colour-conscious policy frames, on the one hand, and redistributive and non-redistributive policy frames, on the other hand. The second part of the research adopts a comparative analysis. Using within and between-case comparison and relying on expert interviews, it provides possible explanations for dominant policy frames and the differences and similarities in these frames between the different countries, regions, and policy fields. Again drawing on critical race theory, this part suggests that the idea of ‘racial neoliberalisation’ in Europe can best help explain the observed dominance of and trend towards the (colour-conscious and non-redistributive) ‘deficit frame’. Within the deficit frame, ethno-racial inequalities are portrayed as being caused by individual deficits of people with a ‘migration background’, and policy responses focus on compensating for these deficits. The thesis shows how racial neoliberalisation in its specific political and institutional context can account for the prevalence of this policy frame in Belgium and Germany. In this way, the thesis yields new insights into how ethno-racial inequalities are conceived and framed in public policy and how trends and variation in these policy frames might be explained. Thereby it makes both a theoretical and empirical contribution to scholarship on policymaking as regards migrants, minorities, and the inequalities they face.