The following laudatory speech was part of the presentation of the Ammodo KNAW Award to Frank van Tubergen in 2015.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Frank van Tubergen’s field is sociology, the social science of how people live together. His interests are at the heart of that subject area and they touch on themes about which almost everyone these days has strong views: migration, religion, language acquisition, social networks, discrimination and social and economic inequality. You only need to switch on the TV in an evening to see one of his subjects being discussed.
As a scientist, van Tubergen does not allow himself to be side tracked by the great variety of societal opinions. He looks objectively at facts, causes, consequences and mechanisms, as he questions what is actually happening behind the scenes of the everyday discussions. He systematizes, measures, analyses and forms and tests theories. He collects, combines and compares interdisciplinary research data from the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, England, the United States and, recently, Saudi Arabia. He uses laboratory experiments, population studies and administrative registration systems. He relates his observations in a self-developed and now widely used universal model.
Why are friends and acquaintances often from the same ethnic group? What are the consequences of ethnic segregation for training and employment opportunities for immigrants and natives? Why is income inequality in the United States much greater than in Europe? Why were the recent revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East so unexpected?
For van Tubergen these are much more fundamental than political questions.
Van Tubergen’s long list of publications reveals the broad and international scope of his work: he examines interethnic relations in Germany; structural and cultural explanations for interracial marriages in the United States since 1880; and comparison of religiosity of immigrants into Europe from many different countries.
He often finds that thorough scientific review reveals superficial observations and analysis to be seriously flawed.
As a sociologist, he saw no instance of “multicultural drama” or “mass immigration”, and he did not hesitate to speak out about such misconceptions. Instead he noted that Dutch children from migrant families have made significant social economic progress; contrary to what was often claimed; the number of immigrants to the Netherlands fluctuates but certainly had not risen explosively: young Moroccan men are indeed overrepresented in crime, but that can be explained by their socio-economic positions, the size of their families and the influence of peers in their environment, not on the basis of their ethnic background.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The advisory committee had heard of the continuing development of Frank van Tubergen’s interests and achievements but actually felt he has already become a brilliant scientist. I welcome your heartfelt applause for Frank van Tubergen, winner of an Ammodo KNAW Award for Social Sciences!
Why do we often choose friends and partners with the same ethnic background? What is the impact of this segregation on social opportunities? Why is America’s income inequality much greater than that in Europe?
These are the very topical questions that fascinate Frank van Tubergen and for which he seeks scientific and not ideological answers.