current projects

Ethno-Religious Neighborhood Infrastructures and the Well-being of Immigrants and their Descendants in Germany

Under Review. With Merlin Schaeffer and Sarah Carol. Paper available upon request.

Urban sociological research assigns immigrant enclaves an ambiguous role. While such areas are seen as rich in beneficial ethnic infrastructures and networks, they also tend to be located in deprived and stigmatized inner-city neighborhoods. Research on neighborhood attainment provides evidence for both, a desire to attain mainstream middle-class neighborhoods, which grows the more immigrants and their descendants establish themselves in society, but also a continuing attraction of residing close to co-ethnics. To tease apart this ambiguity, we study how the subjective well-being of immigrants and their descendants depends on the characteristics of the neighborhood they live in. We use classic measures of neighborhood quality vis-á-vis newly collected data on the spatial density of ethno-religious minority associations, places of worship, and grocers, as well as of the local mobilization capacities of far-right networks. We link these ecological data to the geocoded German Socio-Economic Panel to predict subjective well-being among immigrants and their descendants at different geographical scales. To strengthen a causal interpretation of our results, we employ specifications that address self-selection into neighborhoods and unobserved confounding. Overall, our results suggest that higher densities of especially ethno-religious civil society associations contribute to increased well-being among persons of immigrant origin. Even more decisive is the extent of local mobilization of the far-right, which erodes well-being particularly among persons of non-European origin. Contra standard assumptions, we find no evidence that overall neighborhood quality, or the mere share of co-ethnics in a neighborhood increases well-being among immigrants and their descendants.

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.

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.

Political and Social Consequences of Qualification Mismatches. A bounding approach to status inconsistency

Preprint available at SocArXiv.

A significant number of employees work in jobs that do not match their level of formal education. Status inconsistency theory (SIT) argues that mismatches result in stress, political alienation, and social withdrawal. As the number of mismatched workers rises in many countries, status inconsistency may pose a threat to social cohesion and political moderation there. However, the existing evidence on the social and political consequences of mismatch is neither conclusive nor convincing. Previous SIT scholarship does not fully appreciate two identification problems: Selection bias and the perfect collinearity among the effects of occupation, education, and mismatch. These issues lead to contradictory conclusions, as different methodological fixes are proposed and employed. I review these methods for their theoretical content and show that they generally do not answer the purported research question. To address these problems, I build on recent advances in the modelling of age, period and cohort effects. My approach is based on relatively weak, transparent assumptions that are grounded in sociological theory to partially identify mismatch effects and estimate bounds on effect sizes. The empirical analysis draws on comparable large-scale survey data from the United Kingdom (UKLHS) and Germany (GSOEP). Cross-sectional and panel fixed-effects models show strong mismatch effects on work-related identities, satisfaction, and wages. Contra the SIT hypothesis, I find no evidence that mismatch effects spill over into the political domain. My results suggest that the effects of mismatches do not arise from cognitive dissonance, as theorized by SIT, but from an expectation formation mechanism. Despite large institutional differences, the results are very similar across countries.

Immigrant mens’ economic adaptation in changing labor markets. Why gaps between Turkish and German men expanded since 1976

Under review. With Johannes Giesecke.

This study examines how macro-social change in Germany has influenced the socio-economic position of male Turkish immigrants. We develop an analytical framework to assess how facets of social and economic change have shaped male immigrant-native gaps in labor market outcomes over time. Empirically, we focus on the first generation of male Turkish immigrants in Germany and use micro-census data spanning almost 40 years. Our methodology contributes a novel empirical quantification of key theoretical arguments to the literature. We find growing inter-group differences between the late-1970s and mid-2000s (employment) and mid-2010s (for incomes), respectively. The growth of differences between the immigrant and the native income distributions was most pronounced in their respective bottom halves. Our analysis show clearly that these trends are linked to the increased value of qualifications, to educational expansion in Germany, and to deindustrialization. Employment shifted away from middling positions in manufacturing, but while Germans tended to move into better paying positions, employment of Turkish immigrants mainly shifted into disadvantaged service jobs. These results provide novel evidence to claims that the economic assimilation of less-skilled immigrants may become structurally harder in increasingly post-industrial societies. We conclude that structural change in host countries is an important, yet often overlooked driver of immigrants’ socio-economic integration trajectories.

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