The 'Market-Conforming' Family: Foreign Families, the 'Grandmother Solution' and the West German Welfare State

Lauren Stokes*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Foreigners' right to family migration in West Germany was grounded on the idea that said migration could unburden the welfare state. The state actively recruited both foreign men and women as guest workers, often as married couples, creating the problem of providing childcare within a welfare state that assumed that families could provide their own childcare. Some migrant workers responded to these expectations by bringing extended family members, such as the family that brought a 'Spanish grandmother' and subsequently fought for her residence permit in court. When the Federal Administrative Court heard her case in 1973, it concluded that extended family members had a right to migrate if they made the family more 'functional', which the grandmother in question did by caring for her grandchildren. The conservative welfare state incorporated foreigners according to a logic of 'market conformity' that guided its migration policy and shaped its approach to social welfare.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)221-234
Number of pages14
JournalContemporary European History
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History


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