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Population

Persons with a migration background

Since migration and integration were included as a new thematic area in the microcensus survey programme in 2005, a distinction has been possible between the population with a migration background and that without a migration background.

The definition of a population group with a migration background makes clear that migration as a thematic area does not only focus on immigrants as such, but must include certain descendants who are born in Germany, too.

Thus, the population group with a migration background consists of all persons who have immigrated into the territory of today’s Federal Republic of Germany after 1949, and of all foreigners born in Germany and all persons born in Germany who have at least one parent who immigrated into the country or was born as a foreigner in Germany. The migration status of a person is determined based on his/her own characteristics regarding immigration, naturalisation and citizenship and the relevant characteristics of his/her parents.

This means that German nationals born in Germany may have a migration background, too, be it as children of Ethnic German repatriates, as children born to foreign parents (in accordance with the so-called ius soli principle) or as German nationals with one foreign parent. This migration background is exclusively derived from the characteristics of the parents. And those concerned cannot pass the migration background on to their offspring. As regards immigrants and foreigners born in Germany, however, they can pass their background on. In accordance with the relevant legal provisions concerning foreigners, this definition typically covers first to third generation immigrants.

Classification of population groups by country of birth and citizenship

As regards persons with a migration background, a distinction is made between persons with a migration background in the narrower sense (immigrants and foreigners born in Germany) and persons with a migration background in the broader sense. This distinction is necessary because, for every reference year, data are only available for persons with a migration background in the narrower sense. As far as the second group of persons is concerned, data are available at four-year intervals only. This is due to the fact that data on German nationals born in Germany, whose migration background is based on the characteristics of their parents, are only collected every four years if the persons concerned do not live together with their parents in the same household.

Classification of population groups by migration status

The detail of analysis is limited for the groups of origin covered in the microcensus. Separate analyses can only be made for larger nationality groups and frequently occurring socio-structural variables in order to avoid a situation where data protection-related anonymity would be violated because of an insufficient size of the groups concerned.

Please see Fachserie 1 Reihe 2.2, Chapter I Methodische Bemerkungen und Übersicht über die Ergebnisse and Annex 1 Bevölkerung mit Migrationshintergrund – Auf dem Weg zu einer definitorischen Abgrenzung for more detailed information on the thematic area of migration and integration.


1 Pursuant to the German nationality law (section 4, subsection 3 of the Nationality Act), regulations on obtaining citizenship according to the place of birth principle (Latin: ius soli) were introduced on 1 January 2000 in addition to the existing descent principle regulations. According to the new principle, German citizenship is – under certain conditions - automatically conferred to children born in Germany whose parents do not have the German citizenship.

Additional Information

Key Figures

Persons with a migration background201719.3 mn
Foreign population201710.6 mn
Turkey20171.5 mn
Poland2017866,855
Syria2017698,950
Persons seeking protection20171.7 mn
Syria2017507,190
Afghanistan2017204,180
Iraq2017174,400
Naturalisations2017112,211

© Statistisches Bundesamt (Destatis), 2018

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