On HOMInG’s large-scale survey in London

Extending two years of qualitative fieldwork across Europe, the HOMInG project is now conducting a large-scale survey across European capitals.

Building on its qualitative findings, the HOMInG team designed an interactive questionnaire, aiming to unpack how migrants dwell and inhabit their cities of settlement. Divided in nine modules, this questionnaire covers a range of topics, by collecting information on respondents’ sociodemographic characteristics and networks, as well as by collecting data on their migration history and residential trajectories. In addition, a specific module focuses on individuals’ home-making practices and feeling at home. By doing so, the HOMInG large-scale survey provides a novel understanding of what home means to those on the move.

The first wave of the data collection focused on two immigrant groups: Indian and Ecuadorian nationals, in two selected neighbourhoods of London: Southall and Southwark.

The first wave of the quantitative data collection has been conducted in July 2019. Professor Paolo Boccagni, principal investigator of the project, came to London to supervise the training of the team. Ilka Vari-Lavoisier, project manager, oversaw the hiring of the nine interviewers and supervisor who joined the project for this phase of the project and further supervised the data collection itself. Over a month, using interactive tablets, the team collected a total of 348 questionnaires (264 Indian and 84 Ecuadorian respondents).

The data discloses interesting differences between Indian and Ecuadorian migrants: Indians seem more settled in the UK, both objectively (higher proportion of house owners) and subjectively (they feel at home in their current dwellings, and in the UK, to a larger extent, as compared to Ecuadorians migrants). Overall, people feel at home where they can be with family members and, to a lesser extent, if they can cook the food they like, in a clean environment.

In terms of sociodemographic characteristics, our typical respondent is a 47-year-old Indian man, living in Southall (North of London) with his two children and his spouse. With a secondary degree, he works full-time (41 hours/week) and earns around 2000 GBP/month. He arrived in the UK twenty-three years ago, but his parents and siblings still live in India. He is in touch with relatives back in India, on a daily basis, and send them money in exceptional circumstances

At home, he has a picture reminding him of his country of origin. He does feel at home, to a large extent, in the dwelling, neighbourhood and country where he currently lives in. Albeit to a lesser extent, he also still feels at home when he goes back to India (at least once year). Overall, he thinks that life is getting better, rather than worst, for most people both in the UK and in India. In ten years from now, he hopes to (and thinks he will) live in the same house. He hopes (and thinks) that his grandchildren will be raised in the neighbourhood where he currently lives. In other words, people on the move aspire to settle down.

Overall this first wave allowed us to gain a rich understanding of migrants’ home-making practices, and provided key insights into the different living conditions of migrants, in London, depending on their country of origin and place of settlement. We will continue the investigation with the next wave of the data collection, that will take place in London, in October 2019. Be in touch if you would like to get involved, and see our call for applications if you would like to join the project as interviewer!