ESRA 2017 Programme

Tuesday 18th July      Wednesday 19th July      Thursday 20th July      Friday 21th July     

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Wednesday 19th July, 09:00 - 10:30 Room: F2 106

Methodological, Practical and Theoretical Challenges in Research on Refugees 1

Chair Dr Roman Auriga (Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories )
Coordinator 1Dr Gisela Will (Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories)
Coordinator 2Dr Christoph Homuth (Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories)

Session Details

The massive increase in the number of refugees since 2015 poses significant socio-political challenges to the receiving countries. For this reason, policy makers are looking for appropriate policies supporting effective and efficient social integration of refugees based on well-grounded empirical research. However, previous research on migration can only partly meet this need. There are first studies with the recent refugee groups (like IAB-SOEP-BAMF sample and the Re-GES study at LIfBi in Germany, or projects from Statistics Canada) but it is still little known about how to do appropriate research and how to conduct studies with these very specific target persons.

Therefore, the session focuses on methodological and practical challenges in research on refugees (cross-sectional and panel). We also aim at the exchange of experiences on interviewing refugees and bringing scholars together, which focus on both prior waves on refuges and recent migration of asylum seekers as well as migration researchers in general. We aim at addressing mainly the following questions:

Study design
Refugees are a very special group of migrants as their legal statuses, return aspirations or trajectories differ e. g. from working migrants. However, refugees resemble other migrants due to similar challenges in the receiving countries. Due to this duality the following questions arise: Are the migrant groups really that distinct? What is similar? Which experience of former migration research can be used? What has to be adjusted or newly developed? How can research designs cope with the expected special challenges of refugee studies (e.g. traumatic experiences)? What innovative designs can be used to analyse existing data sets regarding these questions?

What is the best way to identify refugees? How to deal with non-complete or non-existing registers? How can small groups of refugees be studied adequately? What strategies exist to reach undocumented migrants?

Refugees are often a very mobile group. In panel studies, tracking of participants is especially challenging in case of illegal or non-registered persons. What special strategies exist/are needed to track refugees? How do they differ from tracking other migrants? Are special incentive schemes needed?

There exist good strategies for translation of questionnaires. However, experience and expertise of interviewing and translating into rare languages as well as about the comparability of findings are restricted. How can we deal with various and infrequent languages in one study and how comparable are the results?

Paper Details

1. ReGES - Refugees in the German Educational System: Introducing a new panel study on refugees in Germany
Dr Gisela Will (LIfBi - Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories)
Dr Jutta von Maurice (LIfBi - Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories)
Professor Hans-Günther Roßbach (LIfBi - Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories)
Dr Christoph Homuth (LIfBi - Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories)

The significance of the massive increase in the number of refugees in 2015 poses a challenge for organizational and integration policy. Questions concerning the conditions under which the integration of refugees can be facilitated and which factors impede integration processes cannot currently be answered, as the required data are not available.
To close this gap, the Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories (LIfBi) has started the longitudinal study “Refugees in the German Educational System (ReGES)” which examines the process of integration into the German education system and society of young immigrants who have recently arrived in Germany in the context of the influx of asylum seekers.

Research Objectives and Questions
The first aim of the study is to describe the newly arrived immigrant groups and their educational careers. Furthermore, we are analyzing the management of integration policy challenges from an organizational perspective in the daily lives of the educational institutions and the conditions that either support or obstruct it. The second objective is the examination of the influence of migration-specific factors on educational outcomes.

Methods and Study Design
ReGES concentrates on two key stages of education:
1. Early childhood education, which is not only very important for the acquisition of German language skills and the beginning of the educational career but also offers a potential path to the integration of entire families;
2. The transition from the lower secondary level into the vocational training system, which is central to medium- and long-term integration into the German labor market.
In each of the two starting cohorts, 2,400 people will be interviewed at the first measuring point in the second half of 2017. About half of these respondents—those who can be surveyed in Arabic, English, or German—will then be accompanied longitudinally for a period of four years, with the particular aim of generating a nuanced overall view of the start of the integration process.
Due to the high level of mobility of the target group, panel interviews will be conducted every six months, with a total of seven measurement points for the parents and young people. The surveys will be complemented by competence tests and questionnaires of the refugees plus interviews with important context persons (those active in the group accommodation, teaching and administrative staff). To understand the role of different institutional and regional situations, interviews will be conducted in five different Federal States (Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saxony, and Hamburg).

2. Refugees in Canada: benefits and challenges behind administrative data linkages
Mr Tristan Cayn (Statistics Canada)

The study of a population that is small or difficult to reach brings many challenges to researchers. By using administrative records, the Longitudinal Immigration Database (IMDB) is able to reach almost all refugee taxfilers in Canada. This dataset combines immigration records with annual tax files. Its design provides detailed and reliable information on refugees settling in Canada and, with each tax cycle, a consistent update with detailed economic outcomes, location information, and family composition. Its longitudinal design offers up to 33 years of information.

Statistics Canada has also developed other options using record linkage between sample surveys and administrative records. For example, the 2011 National Household Survey was linked with immigration records providing outcomes of refugees not covered by the IMDB such as current knowledge of languages, occupation, and housing.

This presentation will discuss the benefits and challenges related to the use of administrative data to study refugees in Canada. Existing data sets will be reviewed and possible future directions will be explored.

3. The WELLCOME Study – A Panel Survey of Young Syrian Refugees
Mrs Angelika Steinwede (infas Institute for Applied Social Sciences, Germany)
Mr Michael Ruland (infas Institute for Applied Social Sciences, Germany)
Dr Hans Dietrich (Institute of Employment Research (IAB), Germany)

Germany has experienced a significant influx of refugees since summer 2015, especially from Syria. As a result, an unanticipated increasing number of Syrian citizens was identified while drawing monthly samples for the IAB-Survey „Youth unemployment, mental health and labor market outcome“– a survey addressing the interdependencies of mental strain or illness and unemployment of young adults. These samples of recently registered unemployed originate from a database of the German Federal Employment Agency.
Refugee experiences have a considerable impact on health. Presumably, interdependencies between mental health and labor market participation are relevant for integrating refugees in societies. Considering the shortage of studies referring to young adult refugees, we took the opportunity to conduct a supplementary survey focusing on this specific group by using identical core instruments.
The WELLCOME study is a quantitative panel survey by the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) carried out by infas Institute for Applied Social Sciences. Monthly samples of first-time unemployed young Syrians (aged 18-24) were interviewed. To reduce nonresponse bias, the first wave of the study was designed as a mixed-method CATI/CAWI survey: individuals with cell phone or landline numbers were interviewed by phone; the remaining individuals without available numbers were asked to participate online. Initially, every sample member received a letter with survey information in Arabic, English, and German. In the telephone sample, initial contact was made in Arabic, though a switch to German as interview language was possible at any time. The respondents of the online sample were initially asked to decide on these interview languages. The questionnaire contains several standardized scales covering mental health and posttraumatic stress disorder.
Special attention was paid to the target group’s linguistic and cultural background. This applies in particular to the development and translation of the questionnaire, to contacting those young Syrians and to the communicative setting of the interview. During all these steps of the pilot study we consulted with a group of experienced Arabic interviewers to meet these challenges. They provided the expertise for the required cultural and communicative background of the target population.
Wave 1 of the WELLCOME study was conducted from July to October 2016. A total of 2,328 CATI interviews were conducted with a response rate of about 50 percent. The telephone interviews were mostly conducted in Arabic. About 10 percent participated (404 interviews) in the online sample. Survey wave 2 and 3 are to be carried out as CATI-interviews 6 or 12 months after the first interview.
The paper is based on the results of the pilot and the first two waves of the main study. We present target-specific communication strategies. Those take communicative conventions into account, which deviate considerably from “western-style survey conventions” and make allowances for the variety of Arabic dialects. Furthermore, we analyze the composition of the assignment to both modes and focus additionally on selectivity regarding participation in the first two waves.

4. Translations into rare languages and foreign languages skills of refugees in Germany
Professor Jürgen Schupp (SOEP/DIW Berlin)
Mr Jannes Jacobsen (SOEP/DIW Berlin)

With the ongoing stream of refugees towards Europe and the follow up research, new obstacles for social science research emerge. Especially, in randomized samples with face-to-face interviews and standardized survey techniques the question of survey language and language skills of the respondents raises methodological and practical challenges. From a survey-methodological perspective there is an increased risk that respondents do not understand the questions comprehensively. Often, self-evaluation of the respondents is used to measure such abilities. But this approach contains several weaknesses: First, we don’t know the frame in which the respondent asses his skills and second personal characteristics such as reserve, might bias the answer. The German IAB-BAMF-SOEP survey of refugees is a representative longitudinal study of more than 4,500 people in Germany who are at least 18 years old. The sample has been derived by the Central Register of Foreign Nationals – and represents refugees who entered Germany between January 1, 2013 and January 31, 2016 and applied for asylum, regardless of their current legal status. The questionnaire has been made available in seven languages: Arabic, Northern Kurdish, Persian, Urdu, Pashto, German, and English. It was also important to ensure that people unable to read well participated in the survey, therefore the survey company developed innovative audio-visual survey instruments, making the questionnaire available both in writing and verbally and interpreters were available to provide support as required. Beside the choice of the questionnaire the interviewer have been asked to evaluate the interview regarding the understanding and second it is measured how often translations or professional interpreters were used. The paper will present first findings first on the choice of translated survey instruments second on the comparability of select results regarding the choice of language in the interview, the extern evaluation of language skills by the interviewer and language skills of the respondents.