Immigrant enclaves and risk of drug involvement among asylum-seeking immigrants in Sweden: A quasi-experimental study

Briana Mezuk, Henrik Ohlsson, Klas Cederin, Jan Sundquist, Kenneth S. Kendler, Kristina Sundquist

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Background: Sweden is a major host nation for asylum-seeking immigrants, and residential placement of these immigrants is an important policy concern. This quasi-experimental study estimated of the impact of being placed into an “immigrant enclave” on risk of officially-recognized drug involvement (ORDI) among asylum-seeking immigrants over a 15-year period. Methods: All data come from Swedish registries. The sample consisted of (a) asylum-seeking immigrants aged 5–35 years old at arrival (N = 51,017) that were subject to a nationwide policy (enforced 1987–1991) that dispersed asylum-seeking immigrants across municipalities, and (b) native-born Swedes aged 15 and older during this same period (N = 1,040,311). Neighborhood immigrant composition was quantified using the Reardon Index; residents of “immigrant enclave” neighborhoods (n = 960) were compared to residents of all other neighborhoods (n = 2,471). Cox proportional hazards models assessed the relationship between living in an enclave and risk of ORDI, identified by national registries, through 2015. Results: Overall, 29.7% of immigrants were assigned to, and 25.5% of Swedes lived in, an enclave. Cumulative incidence of ORDI in enclaves was 6.34% as compared to 6.89% in other neighborhoods. Immigrants living in an enclave had lower risk of ORDI (Hazard ratio (HR): 0.86, 95% Confidence Interval (CI): 0.77 – 0.96). This protective association was marginally stronger in lower poverty areas. Native-born Swedes living in an enclave had higher risk of ORDI (HR: 1.05, 95% CI: 1.03–1.08), a relationship that was exacerbated by neighborhood poverty. Conclusions: Neighborhood immigrant composition is associated with risk of ORDI, with differential associations for immigrants and native-born populations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107666
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Immigration
  • Neighborhood
  • Segregation
  • Substance abuse


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