Global norms, regional practices: Taste-based and statistical discrimination in German asylum decision-making (joint work with Lidwina Gundacker and Gerald Schneider)

Asylum policy-making in advanced democracies frequently faces the accusation that prejudice and stereotyping lead to erroneous decisions. The model of taste-based discrimination suggests that the biases of decision-makers or their peers against certain groups of applicants influence the evaluation of an asylum claim. Conversely, the concept of statistical discrimination implies that a dearth of information forces impartial decision-makers to resort to stereotypes. We examine both forms of discrimination, evaluating whether they shape asylum-seekers’ chances to receive protection in Germany, currently a key recipient country. Our empirical examination of a representative refugee survey in Germany confirms that asylum decisions are subject to taste- based discrimination: males, Muslims, and applicants assigned to regions with a conservative population or government are less likely to obtain asylum or other forms of protection. Conforming to the theory of statistical discrimination, stereotyping against male or Muslim applicants’ manifests most pronouncedly if decision-makers suffer under high workload or possess little information. However, high information costs do not alter stereotyping in more conservative regions. Altogether, our study reveals that extra-legal reasons in the form of prejudice and stereotypes considerably undermine what should be the key criterion in assessing an asylum claim: the credibility of an individual’s need for protection.

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Socioemotional Skills and Refugees’ Language Acquisitiong (joint work with Marie-Christine Laible)

We analyze socioemotional skills’ role for destination-language proficiency among recent refugees in Germany. While socioemotional skills have been shown to predict educational outcomes, they have been overlooked for immigrants’ language acquisition. We extend a well-established model of destination-language proficiency and assume that socioemotional skills’ effects manifest through the channels of exposure, efficiency, and incentives. Using longitudinal data and growth curve models, we find that socioemotional skills significantly shape destination-language learning. Openness to new experiences, conscientiousness, risk appetite and locus of control positively relate to language proficiency, while extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism are insignificant. We observe mediating effects, suggesting that socioemotional skills shape the channels of efficiency or exposure. Moreover, we observe  multiplication effects reinforcing other advantageous characteristics’ effects on language proficiency. In sum, socioemotional skills affect refugees’ destination-language proficiency and thereby contribute to sustainable economic and societal integration processes. We conclude by discussing policy implications.

– Discussion paper –