current projects

Environmental quality, local infrastructures, and residential choice: A survey experiment on ethnic differences in neighborhood preferences

With Christian König, Jan Paul Heisig, Merlin Schaeffer and Tobias Rüttenauer

Stratification research increasingly recognizes that inequalities are location dependent, that is, clustered in space, with neighborhoods often being the locus of inequality . One crucial dimension of spatial inequality is environmental quality (e.g., pollution levels or proximity to green spaces). Environmental quality at the place of residence has been shown to affect health and life chances more broadly. From the literature on “environmental justice”, we know that some population subgroups are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards at their place of residence. The processes that underlie this empirical regularity are not well understood, however. Studies have shown that ethnic minorities bear a disproportionate burden of environmental hazards at the neighborhood level, even after controlling for income and other aspects of socio-economic status. Therefore, purely economic explanations of selective in- and out-migration appear insufficient for explaining the spatial distribution of environmental goods and bads observed. We develop a conjoint survey experiment aimed to test the role of residential preferences as a possible explanation of population sorting that is difficult to assess with observational data. Within our survey experiment, respondents of immigrant and non-immigrant origins will be presented with several pairs of neighborhood profiles and will be asked to choose in which of these neighborhoods they would rather live in. The different neighborhood profiles will be random combinations of several key attributes that might affect residential choices. The experiment allows us to separate, and thereby disentangle, the role of factors that are empirically correlated, most importantly environmental quality and the presence of co-ethnics and ethnic infrastructures.


Ethno-Religious Minority Infrastructures in Germany

With Merlin Schaeffer, Susanne Böller and Sarah Carol.

Since the canonical work of the Chicago School of urban sociology, so-called ‘ethnic and religious enclaves’ have been an important topic in urban social science research on immigration. Ethnic enclaves have been conceived as important stepping stones for the initial integration of new immigrants. A century of urban social science research on ethno-religious enclaves has resulted in the insight that it is particularly three types of ‘ethnic and religious minority infrastructures’ that underly the social capital and other benefits a vibrant ethno-religious community offers to its residents: ethnic social capital, the enclave economy, and places of worship. It is these important infrastructure dimensions of the ethnic enclave that we focus on in this paper. Despite the fact that ethno-religious minority infrastructures play such a central role in urban theory and research, the default of assessing them in quantitative research is to use the population share of immigrants and their descendants, or the population share of members of a certain ethnicity. The default quantitative mode of assessing ethnic enclaves therefore lags behind theoretical and ethnographic work and thereby stalls further development of the field. Against this background, this paper introduces a novel approach to directly map ethnic infrastructures based on several sources of digital data. In particular, we map ethnic associations, ethnic shopping facilities, and minority places of worship across Germany’s cities and rural regions. This allows us to establish important original facts about ethnic infrastructures in Germany. More importantly, our explicit measures of ethnic infrastructure allow us to investigate the acculturation dynamics that give rise to institutionalization of visible ethnic infrastructures. Finally, our data enables us to empirically assess the validity of population shares as proxies for ethnic infrastructures under different scenarios.


The refugee mobility puzzle: why do refugees move to deprived urban centers?

With Merlin Schaeffer

Social science research demonstrates that dispersal policies and restrictions on the freedom of residence have inhibited refugees’ socio-economic integration, presumably because such policies prevent refugees from moving to places where their skills can be most fruitfully employed. However, studies of refugees’ actual residential choices in Europe suggest that refugees often move to deprived neighborhoods with frail labor markets. The combination of well-documented negative effects of residence restrictions and emerging evidence of disadvantaging secondary migration form what we call a refugee mobility puzzle. In this study, we aim at unpacking this puzzle by analyzing the inner-German migration patterns of refugees. We ask two main questions: 1. To what degree do refugees in Germany move to disadvantaging places, once bans on their mobility are lifted? 2. What attracts refugees to deprived areas, and can such residential choices be moves into opportunity and successful integration after all? Empirically, we draw on the IAB-BAMF-SOEP Survey of Refugees and track the location of more than 2000 refugee respondents, who were exogenously allocated a place of residence and subsequently became free to move. Our main analysis employs a linear-probability discrete choice model and considers information on all 402 German counties and all roughly 8000 postcode areas. Results show high levels of relative immobility, suggesting, first, that initial placements will affect the distribution of immigrant-origin populations in the long run, and, second, that refugees’ desire to leave seemingly adverse places is limited. Moreover, we document a strong correlation of location-choice to local unemployment at destination that only partly reflects the spatial overlap of overall weak labor markets and opportunity structures for refugee immigrants. More important is that major attractors like available and affordable housing, co-ethnic networks and family are all clustered in high-unemployment areas. Taken together, our results complicate empirical assumptions of restriction-critics and underline the lack of housing as a potential lock-in factor for a population with overall low labor-market participation.


Ethnic diversity, trust and social distancing during the corona-pandemic

Ongoing research with Markus Konrad, Ruud Koopmans and James Laurence. A short research note has been published in the WZB Mitteilungen 168.


Residential mobility among ethnic minorities in Germany and its consequences for well-being and social embeddedness (WELLMOB)

My postdoc project with Merlin Schaeffer and Sarah Carol. We investigate the role of neighborhood characteristics for the wellbeing of ethnic minorities in Germany using granular data on places of residence and on moves.


Skill-shortages or credential inflation? A cohort-analysis of qualification mismatches in Great Britain and Germany

Working paper.
Over the past century, completion of educational programs at all levels has increased dramatically. This dramatic expansion of education has been recognized by sociologist as one of the major forces shaping social change. However, it remains debated whether educational expansion has outstripped the demand for qualified labour, resulting in credential-inflation, or, whether, despite increases in education, modern economies face a skill-shortage. Focussing on the United Kingdom and West Germany, two highly developed, but institutionally dissimilar countries, this paper therefore asks to what degree the sharp expansion of education has been absorbed by labour markets. I point out shortcomings of traditional wage-centred analyses and develop an alternative approach that focuses on period and cohort trends in self-reported mismatches between individuals’ education and their jobs, that is, on over- and underqualification.  Based on repeated surveys (UK: Skills and Employment Survey, 1986-2017; Germany: Socioeconomic Panel Study, 1984-2016) and on official labour force surveys, I show that overqualification has increased and underqualification decreased in the United Kingdom since the 1980s, both over historical time and over cohorts. In Germany, by contrast, mismatch-differences are minimal between cohorts, but the overall incidence of underqualification increased whereas overqualification decreased. Further analyses of cohort-differences in mismatch provide clear evidence that overqualification increased with educational expansion in the United Kingdom but not in Germany. I document that credential inflation at the tertiary level trickled down the qualification hierarchy in the United Kingdom, suggesting a labour queue mechanism and a positional value of education. My findings document that the United Kingdom experiences credential inflation, whereas West-Germany is affected by a mild skill-shortage, mainly among middling positions that require vocational training. I relate these findings to well-documented differences in patterns of educational expansion between the United Kingdom and Germany that are rooted in contrasting institutional logics.


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