Mixed marriages in migration from the Ukraine to Poland

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Gazi University]On: 04 October 2014, At: 07:46Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Journal of Ethnic and Migration StudiesPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cjms20

    Mixed marriages in migration from theUkraine to PolandAgata Grny & Ewa KpiskaPublished online: 23 Jan 2007.

    To cite this article: Agata Grny & Ewa Kpiska (2004) Mixed marriages in migrationfrom the Ukraine to Poland, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 30:2, 353-372, DOI:10.1080/1369183042000200740

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1369183042000200740

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  • Journal of Ethnic and Migration StudiesVol. 30, No. 2, March 2004, pp. 353372

    ISSN 1369183X (print)/ISSN 14699451 (online)/04/02035320 2004 Taylor & Francis LtdDOI: 10.1080/1369183042000200740Carfax Publishing

    Mixed Marriages in Migration from the Ukraine to PolandAgata Grny and Ewa Kepinska

    In the early 1990s, Poland, a previously migrant-exporting country, became the destinationfor immigrants from a range of different regions and countries. Most foreigners came fromthe former Soviet Union and especially from the Ukraine. The article uses the case study ofPolishUkrainian marriages to demonstrate the importance of the phenomenon of mixedmarriages in the light of contemporary migration to Poland. It is shown that temporarymovements to Poland contribute to the volume of mixed marriages that are contracted andthat the population of foreigners married to Polish citizens constitutes a large part ofcontemporary settlement migration to Poland. We argue that patterns of mixed marriagesand their formation can be explained by an economic approach to human behaviour,adjusted so as to take into account a framework of migration from ex-USSR to Poland.

    Keywords: UkrainePoland Migration; Mixed Marriages; Mates Selection; Economic Approach; Gender

    Introduction

    The political and economic transition in Central and Eastern Europe in the late 1980sgave rise to new patterns of migration in the region. Poland, like other relativelyadvanced transition countries such as Hungary and the Czech Republic, became animportant destination area for inhabitants of other countries of the former Soviet bloc.Migrants coming to Poland originate mainly from countries of the former USSR, inparticular from the Ukraine. Since that time there has been a gradual increase in thevolume of mixed marriages involving Polish people and citizens of these new sendingcountries.

    Agata Grny is Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Economic Sciences and Research Fellow in the Centre ofMigration Research, Institute for Social Studies, at the University of Warsaw, Poland. E-mail: agata@gorny.najlepsze.pl.Ewa Kepinska is Research Fellow in the Centre of Migration Research, Institute for Social Studies, at the Universityof Warsaw, Poland. E-mail: ewak@uw.edu.pl

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    The population of foreigners married to citizens of a destination country constitutesa particular element of settlement migration. Such foreigners are usually privileged inthe sense that they are given legal rights to entry which other potential migrantsmay not receive (Hammar 1990). As a result, they can form a large proportion of theoverall population of settlement migrants in countries which have a restrictive legalframework for settlement migration.

    This article considers the relationship between the formation of mixed marriagesand migration in Poland, which has been transformed from a country with a longhistory of net emigration to a country which has attracted (growing) numbers of immi-grants during the 1990s. Poland is thus an example of a new immigration country,where immigration policies are considered to be relatively restrictive and focused oncontrol measures. We argue that temporary movements to Poland significantlycontribute to the population of mixed marriages contracted in Poland. At the sametime, foreigners married to Polish citizens form a crucial part of settlement migrationto Poland, which has been gradually growing in the 1990s and to the present. This isdue, in part, to the limited opportunities for other groups of foreigners to acquire legalresidence in Poland. Thus, marriages between selected groups of foreigners and Polishcitizens can be considered as an important link between temporary and settlementimmigration in contemporary Poland.

    In particular, we argue that a relatively high proportion of foreigners who originatedfrom the former USSR, and are now married to Polish citizens, used to come to Polandas temporary labour migrants. Thus, factors underlying the formation of theirmarriages with Polish people are directly related to the determinants of temporarymigration from the former Soviet Union to Poland. This mobility can be efficientlyexplained by the neoclassical economic model of migration which assumes that indi-vidual decision-making involves utility maximisation (Sjaastad 1962; Todaro 1969).Despite the fact that it is through marriage that settlement migration becomes possible,the temporary migration which made it possible was stimulated by observable wagediscrepancies between Poland and countries in the former USSR (Kaczmarczyk andOklski 2002). Therefore, we argue that marriages between ex-USSR citizens and Polescan be explained using the economic approach to human behaviour proposed byBecker (1991), grounded in a framework of rational choice theory. Here, the fact thata marriage with a Polish citizen enables a foreigner to obtain legal residence in Polandshould be perceived as a particular and important non-market trait of a prospectivePolish partner. This approach seems to be justified in the light of the limited possibili-ties of legal stay in Poland and the considerably better economic prospects that exist inPoland, compared to the majority of ex-USSR countries.

    We focus on the example of Ukrainian immigrants, who are the largest group offoreigners coming to Poland from the former USSR in the 1990s. Certainly, thegeographical proximity of the Ukraine, the shared PolishUkrainian history, and thefact that Polish and Ukrainian cultures are very close to each other, make immigrationfrom the Ukraine to Poland particularly likely. Even so, the lessons learnt from this casestudy are likely to have resonance with the patterns of immigration to Poland fromother parts of the former Soviet Union.

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  • Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 355

    Mixed Marriages and the Economic Approach to Human Behaviour

    According to Becker (1991), it could be argued that people marry to maximise theirexpected well-being. They decide to marry when it brings them higher utility thanremaining single. Such a conceptualisation of the phenomenon of marriage constitutesan element of the economic approach to human behaviour proposed by Becker. It isbased on rational choice theory, which considers family as an outcome of individualdecisions made on the basis of economic (and non-economic) cost and benefitcalculations (Giza-Poleszczuk 2002).

    This approach helps to explain why partners tend to come from similar socio-economic backgrounds. There are two types of trait of potential partners which areimportant in a selection process: market traits (income, professional position, etc.),and non-market traits (age, education, health, intelligence, personality, religion, etc.).Simple correlations between non-market traits such as intelligence, education, age,race, religion, and ethnic origin of spouses are positive and strong (see Winnch 1958,and Vandenberg 1972; from Becker 1991). On the other hand, the wage rates of maleand female partners may vary substantially, as one (usually female) partner may devoteconsiderable time to household occupations (rearing children, cooking, cleaning, etc.),while the high-wage (usually male) partner works in the labour market (Becker 1991:115). Moreover, young, attractive and intelligent people, especially women, are morelikely to marry rich partners, as those women have valuable non-market traits which,combined with high incomes of their spouses, can work very effectively in marriageoutput (the utilities of both partners are relatively high in such a situation).

    Becker (1991) defines mixed marriages broadly as those contracted between peopleof different religion, ethnicity or nation, but also those of different age and educationalattainment. However, his analysis focuses mainly on marriages that are mixed in termsof religion, ethnicity and nationality. A mixed marriage is more likely to bring worseoutputs (e.g. lower earnings and fertility) and to end up with a divorce than othermarriages. Because of that, those who enter mixed marriages are likely to have lowerexpectations than others: persons enter mixed marriages even though they anticipatea higher probability of divorce because they do not expect to do better by further searchand waiting (Becker 1991: 337). Moreover, divorced persons are more likely to out-marry as they usually expect lower gains from a subsequent marriage after one failedmarriage. On the other hand, mates entering mixed marriages can also have somespecific expectations which make them prone to marry someone from a differentreligion or ethnicity.

    Migration between two countries can also be envisaged as migration between twomarriage markets and the various characteristics of the migrant (e.g. age and maritalstatus) will determine where he/she is placed within this market. Some elements ofboth Beckers theory and rational choice theory can also be adapted to explain thesettlement patterns of those in mixed marriages. Those in mixed marriages are likelyto choose to settle in the country where the perceived opportunities are greatest and,usually, this is expected to be the country in which the household can generate ahigher income. The division of labour within the couple will also influence this. In a

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    household where only one partner is active on a labour market, a couple tends tosettle in a country where the job prospects for this person are better. Traditionally,the husband is responsible for satisfying the familys economic needs and mixedcouples are likely to settle in the country where he can obtain the higher income.This is one of the reasons why most people in mixed marriages live in the husbandsorigin country, although this may change as female participation in the labourmarket continues to rise (Cheng 1999; DeLaet 1999; Morokvasic 1993). Of course, itshould also be noted that other factors, such as immigration policy, social policy,childrens education opportunities or environmental conditions, will also influencemigrant choices, but the overriding assumption is that economic factors will be themain driver.

    The key assumption in this analysis is that Poland offers more attractive economicprospects than the Ukraine. This is based both on the opinions of immigrants them-selves and on a comparison between Polish and Ukrainian macro-economic indicators.In 1992, the Ukrainian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita was 386 US dollars,whereas it was 2,197 US dollars in Poland. In the course of the 1990s, the differencebetween these indicators did not change much; throughout the 1990s the Ukrainianfigure was around one-fifth that for Poland. By 1999 this discrepancy was even higher,as the Ukrainian and Polish GDP per capita figures were 619 and 3,987 US dollarsrespectively (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development 2000, 2001).Moreover, in 1998 Ukrainian GDP accounted for only 53 per cent of its level from 1990(in constant prices). Conversely, Polish GDP has been rising constantly since 1993 and,in 1998, was 32 per cent higher than its 1990 level. In 199195, the Ukrainian consumerprice index was rising by over 100 per cent annually. Between 1995 and the end of thedecade the increase continued but at a reduced rate. At the same time, real wages in theofficial sectors of the Ukrainian economy rose only in 1995 (by 27 per cent), whereasin most of the other years of the last decade they fell. What deserves particular attentionis that wages and salaries are not paid regularly in the Ukraine. For example, fromJanuary to August 1998, total wages in arrears grew 7.7 times and amounted to 20 percent of the total payroll (Frejka et al. 1999). For Poland, both the consumer price indexand the index of average gross nominal wages and salaries grew by 35 per cent annuallyduring 199398. Evidently in the 1990s the economic well-being of Ukrainian citizenswas constantly worsening, whereas for inhabitants of Poland economic conditionswere relatively stable (Grny 2002).

    This brief review highlights some important factors related to PolishUkrainianmarriages. Firstly, an important market trait of Polish partners is the fact that theyenable their Ukrainian partners to settle in Poland where they have better life andeconomic prospects than in the Ukraine. It is easier for a foreigner married to a Polishcitizen to legalise his or her status in Poland (i.e. to get a Permanent Residence Permit)than for other migrants. When granted Polish documents, a...

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