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ESRA 2023 Glance Program

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New technologies in surveys with refugees

Session Organisers Mr Florian Heinritz (Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories & Universität Hamburg)
Dr Gisela Will (Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajcetories)
TimeWednesday 19 July, 09:00 - 10:30
Room U6-03

With the war in Ukraine, a new crisis came into the public focus in 2022. Similar to the middle of the last decade, when more and more refugees came to Europe, many people had to leave Ukraine and the public’s interest in survey data on refugees increased immensely again. Therefore, the idea is often to collect data on this migrant group as quickly and cheaply as possible.
When it comes to surveys, however, refugees are a special group in many ways: They usually hardly know the language of the host country; they are a frequently moving group; or they have to leave the host country again after some time, to name just a few specific characteristics. This can result in new sources of error in surveys, excluding some subgroups from surveys, or making it more difficult to re-contact them in longitudinal surveys.
To both react to the public demand for fast data and to take these methodological issues into account, the use of innovative technologies in surveys offer new possibilities to survey refugees in an easier way and still keep the Total Survey Error as low as possible. The easier implementation of multilingual surveys in self-administered surveys, using online surveys for better coverage of mobile groups, or apps for better re-contacting refugees over time are just a few example of how we can improve surveys with refugees by using new technologies.
Therefore, our session will discuss the pro and cons of using innovative technologies in surveys with refugees. On the one hand, we will focus on how to reduce the Total Survey Error considering the specific characteristics of refugees. On the other hand, we look at how new technologies can be used for longitudinal surveys, as questions about the integration of refugees often require longitudinal data.

Keywords: refugees, new technologies, migrants, survey research


One App to Sample and Survey - Implementing an all-in-one solution to research rejected asylum seekers

Mr Randy Stache (BAMF Research Centre) - Presenting Author
Dr Laura Peitz (BAMF Research Centre)
Dr Lisa Johnson (BAMF Research Centre)

With constantly high numbers of rejected asylum applications, irregular residence is a contentious political topic in most European countries. Yet, informed policy-making on the issue is aggravated by a lack of empirically based knowledge. One of the reasons is that rejected asylum seekers, as a spatially dispersed, heterogenous, and spatially mobile group, are particularly hard-to-reach. They are also hard-to-persuade, being wary of cooperating with strangers or disclosing personal information due to their particularly marginal status; and hard-to-interview, being linguistically and socioculturally diverse as well as having little experience with survey participation.

Against this backdrop, we use a newly developed research App to study the im-/mobility decision making of rejected asylum seekers. This App is designed as a technical all-in-one solution for sampling and surveying, including the following features: First, it provides an entirely anonymous dissemination infrastructure to conduct a respondent-driven sampling (RDS). Second, it serves as an automated platform for the double incentivization that underlies the RDS. Third, the App hosts a multilingual self-administered survey. Fourth, survey experiments are included as a potential solution to cover the sensitive topic of im-/mobility aspirations.

In this contribution, we discuss the challenges of collecting data on rejected asylum seekers, which is particularly difficile given our institutional affiliation with the Research Centre of the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. With this in mind, we also elaborate on the ethical considerations guiding our research. We present the functional requirements of our research App as well as the concrete technical and design features we discussed and ultimately chose. Based on examples, we offer practical guidance on necessary considerations, such as measures to prevent multiple participation, and share the do’s and dont’s in developing a research App to survey refugees.

Failure or Cooling-Out in Study Preparation?

Mr Sebastian Zuehl (Helmut-Schmidt-University) - Presenting Author

Over the past years, the number of new applications for asylum in Germany has varied significantly. The war in Syria and other crisis regions caused a peak of applications in 2016.
For young and newly displaced refugees a fresh start or continuation of educational careers is of utmost importance and has become a focus of their own integration efforts in new host societies. However, pursuing higher education as a refugee is associated with different institutional challenges.
Usually, a seamless transition into higher education or possible alternative career paths cannot easily be guaranteed due to diverse formal and individual requirements and conditions. In order to meet the demands of arriving refugees, German universities and preparatory colleges (“Studienkollegs”) provided special support services.
We conducted 11 qualitative (“episodic”) interviews with prospective refugee students in 2019 to 2020.
Drawing on these data we were able to reconstruct educational trajectories as well as orientation frameworks which guide educational and career decisions of prospective refugee students. Due to institutional barriers and challenging entry conditions, different orientation frameworks shape and re-shape educational decisions students make while transitioning into higher education. Further career decisions heavily depend on failure or success in necessary preparatory courses.
Our data show that prospective refugee students cope with their general disappointment about failing the requirements by different “cooling-out” mechanisms provided by the aforementioned support services. Failure tends to limit study aspirations and push refugees into new emerging or alternative career paths. Success in preparatory courses motivates and reassures decision processes. In many cases educational trajectories are prolonged and get in conflict with initial orientation frameworks.
We conclude that uncertain residence status and the advanced age of prospective students tend to influence study aspirations and educational decisions strongly. Findings propose wider implications for higher education policies regarding interrupted educational pathways of refugees.

Using a Panel App in Surveys on Refugees

Ms Katharina Sandbrink (infas Institut für angewandte Sozialwissenschaft GmbH (Institute for Applied Social Sciences), Bonn, Germany) - Presenting Author
Mr Vincent Gerber (infas Institut für angewandte Sozialwissenschaft GmbH (Institute for Applied Social Sciences), Bonn, Germany)
Mr Michael Ruland (infas Institut für angewandte Sozialwissenschaft GmbH (Institute for Applied Social Sciences), Bonn, Germany)

For the quality of a panel study, the highest possible degree of coverage and avoidance of selective refusals are particularly important. It depends on study design, target group, and survey content how these goals can be achieved. Above all, the accessibility of the respondent is a central aspect next to their willingness to participate. To ensure that respondents in longitudinal surveys are not systematically excluded or can no longer be contacted, it is important to have stable contact information available.
For highly mobile target groups, such as refugees, stable contact information that is retained in the event of address changes, are for example an email address or contact information from social networks. However, there are numerous arguments against using social networks, especially when it comes to data protection. In contrast, the use of a panel app that is free of charge for the target subjects and can be installed on mobile devices, has the advantage that all data protection assurances can be complied with.
This paper introduces a panel app designed for the usage in various panel surveys. The main goal of the app is to stay in contact with respondents. Likewise, the app intends to motivate the target subjects to continue participating in a study.
Based on the study ReGES (Refugees in the German Educational System) we describe the deployment and use of the panel app and examine whether using the app increases respondents' engagement with the study. In addition, whether these individuals differ from those who do not use the Panel App.
In the first ReGES wave in 2018, of 2,415 surveyed adolescents, 676 installed and logged in to the panel app. Of parents surveyed about their children, out of 1,639 parents with young children, 753 logged into the app.

Using New Technologies to Survey Refugees and what that Means for the Data

Mr Florian Heinritz (Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories & Universität Hamburg) - Presenting Author

Unlike general population surveys, refugee specific characteristics pose new challenges when surveying refugees. On the one hand, refugees rarely speak the language of the host country well enough on their arrival, so that surveys have to be offered in several languages. Refugees are additionally a rather mobile group, so this mobility has to be taken into account in longitudinal studies in order to reach refugees again. At the same time, their legal status is often a concern for refugees and may result in them having to leave the host country again and being no longer reachable for follow-up face-to-face interviews. And – at least for some groups of refugees – it must also be expected that not all respondents can read or write sufficiently.

Relatively new technologies open up opportunities to address these characteristics in an optimized way. On the one hand, respondents can often easily switch between languages in multilingual surveys so that they can answer the questions in their native language. On the other hand, audio files can help reach illiterate respondents without requiring interviewers with skills in the respondents’ language. Web surveys can often help to keep reaching respondents even if they no longer live in the host country or if they cannot be reached in person.

By using these technologies, the German longitudinal refugee study ReGES intends to avoid that refugee-specific characteristics become a disadvantage in surveys of refugees. Therefore, this contribution will use data from the ReGES study to show how using such technical solutions can affect the quality of the data. In particular, I will discuss the effects of multilingual surveys, how audio files can support illiterate respondents, and web surveys with refugees.