Lineage Patterns in a Dual-Ethnic Society: Ethnolinguistic Registration across Four Generations in Contemporary Finland

Jan M. Saarela , Abo Academy University
Martin Kolk, Stockholm University
Ognjen Obucina, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)

The loss of unique linguistic, ethnic and cultural heritages following globalization and the industrial revolution has been described as one of the great tragedies of the past two centuries. Such processes do not typically take place by the demographic extinction of a distinct sociocultural group, where deaths outnumber births, but by groups gradually abandoning a minority culture for the majority culture, pioneered by individuals of mixed descent following intermarriage. We relate to these issues by studying how ethnolinguistic background affects ethnolinguistic identity in contemporary Finland. This is a society where two ethnolinguistic groups, Finnish speakers and Swedish speakers, have coexisted for centuries, and mixed unions are increasingly common. Using multigenerational data from the population register, we determine the unique ethnolinguistic registration of young persons, their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. Within the minority group of Swedish speakers, we find substantial diversity in ethnolinguistic background, but also strong lineage persistence in ethnolinguistic registration. Within the majority group of Finnish speakers, most individuals have an ethnolinguistically stable background. Mother’s ethnolinguistic affiliation is much more important than father’s for the ethnolinguistic registration of the child. There is a strong maternal bias also with respect to maternal grandmothers and great grandmothers, although it tapers off somewhat with lineage distance. If the prevalence of births within mixed unions and the current preferences for ethnolinguistic registration of children within them remain, the Swedish-speaking minority group in Finland is not under any immediate threat of extinction.

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 Presented in Session P2. Poster Session Ageing, Health and Mortality