What are the sources of misperceptions about immigrants? We examine how diversity in the market for local news affects misperceptions about the size of the immigrant population in Germany. We propose a theoretical framework in which heterogeneous information from different news outlets diffuses through social interactions. We posit that exposure to diverse information leads to more accurate perceptions in competitive markets. To causally identify the effect of news media diversity on misperceptions, we exploit overlapping newspaper coverage areas as a source of exogenous variation in the number of available outlets. We estimate that local news monopolies increase misperceptions by 38%. We empirically demonstrate that the effect of diverse media hinges on interactions in social networks. For individuals with fewer social connections, misperceptions remain unaffected by media diversity. Our results suggest that consolidation in the market for news can decrease constituents’ knowledge about critical policy issues.
How do freedom of movement restrictions affect refugee integration? While a growing body of research studies the initial allocation of refugees, there is little causal evidence on subsequent policies that restrict residential mobility. We study a contentious law in Germany, which barred newly arrived refugees from relocating to a location different from the one they were assigned to. To identify the causal effect of the movement restriction on integration, we utilize a sharp date cutoff that governs whether refugees are affected by the policy. We demonstrate that restricting freedom of movement had pronounced negative effects on refugees’ sense of belonging in Germany, while increasing identification with their home countries. In addition, the policy decreased social engagement, but had no detectable effects on contact with natives or co-ethnics. We argue that detrimental effects stem from the fact that discriminatory policies send a negative signal about the inclusiveness of the host society.
This study examines the relationship between crimes attributed to immigrants and hate crimes against refugees at the local level. We argue that localized crime events attributed to immigrants can lead to xenophobic responses whereby natives exact retribution against uninvolved out-group members. We investigate such intergroup conflict dynamics between immigrants and natives in Germany, a country that has experienced a sharp increase in both the foreign-born population and hate crimes in recent years. Our empirical analysis leverages fine-grained geocoded data on more than 9,400 hate crimes and 60,000 immigrant-attributed crime events between 2015 and 2019. Using a regression discontinuity in time design (RDiT), we show that the daily probability of hate crimes doubles in the immediate aftermath of an immigrant crime event in a local community. Our results speak to growing concerns about xenophobic violence in Western democracies.
Does the economic integration of refugees affect public opinion toward migration? We assess this pertinent question by making use of a natural experiment in Germany where the government recently eased labor market access for refugees in 85% of its employment districts. Using administrative employment data spanning ten years, we show that the policy increased refugee employment by 50 percent. The policy also had a positive effect on natives’ attitudes toward migration. Areas exposed to more refugees in the labor market were two percentage points less likely to vote for right-leaning parties across both state and federal elections. At the same time, left-leaning, pro-immigration parties gained significantly. The increase in pro-immigration voting is detectable both in aggregate electoral data as well as using panel survey evidence. Our findings support sociotropic accounts of public opinion formation toward migration.
Local Newspaper Decline and Political Polarization (with Fabio Ellger, Hanno Hilbig, and Philipp Tillmann) [Abstract]
How does consolidation in the market for local news affect electoral polarization? A growing literature recognizes that political polarization partially stems from changes in the media landscape. While a range of countries have experienced marked declines in the number of local news outlets as well as news readership, there is little work that explores how local news exits affect polarization. To study this relationship, we draw on a novel panel data set of the coverage areas of all German newspapers between 1979 and 2009. Using a difference-in-differences design, we demonstrate that newspaper exits increase electoral polarization, as measured by a common polarization scale as well as by the vote share of parties further from the center. We propose that voters consume more national news when local news outlets exit. As a result, voters are increasingly exposed to politics at the national level, where decision making is more ideologically charged and less consensual than at the local level.
World War I and the Rise of the Nazi Party (with Thomas Tichelbaecker).
Estimating Electoral Bias (with Jorge M. Fernandes and Georgina Evans).