ESRA 2017 Programme

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

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Wednesday 19th July, 11:00 - 12:30 Room: F2 106

Methodological, Practical and Theoretical Challenges in Research on Refugees 2

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. How to Track Refugees on their Way to German Universities?
Mr Michael Grüttner (DZHW)

Some recently arrived refugees and forced migrants in Germany, most of them from Syria and Iraq (some from Eritrea or Afghanistan), are already equipped with a foreign university entrance qualification or had studied already in their host countries before they fled from terror or war. This situation generates, first, an opportunity to integrate these people into the German higher education system to overcome a deficit perspective and invest on already existing educational aspirations and, second, a challenge for German universities and universities of applied science as well as preparatory colleges (Studienkolleg).
We investigate for the first time the situation of refugees on their way to German universities through preparatory courses. Our focus is on the meaning of higher education aspirations for refugees in Germany, their prerequisites, educational habitus and personal situation in regard to their prospects for achieving German university entrance qualification, and to take up study, as well as on the interrelation of the individual initial situations, learning environments and institutions.
We conduct a study with a mixed method design integrating a quantitative panel study of refugees and other migrants in preparatory courses, qualitative expert interviews with staff from universities and preparatory colleges, and a qualitative panel of episodic interviews with refugees planning to study at university. The study takes place at four regional clusters scattered across Germany, each featuring at least one university, one university of applied science, and one preparatory college.
At preparatory courses we are able to administer paper and pencil classroom interviews (PAPI) with refugees and a comparison group of other foreign students from diverse cultural backgrounds. We plan to administer a panel of three waves with a PAPI at the first and second wave and an online-interview at the third wave. While the first and second wave are investigating the start and end-phase of the preparatory courses, the third wave investigates the progress of the first university semester or alternative pathways of the participants.
The presentation will introduce our research design, strategies of field access, and maintains, and discuss the opportunities and challenges of tracking refugees on their way to German universities.

2. Challenges in a survey on refugees in Hanover
Dr Karina Hoekstra (Institute of Sociology, University of Hanover)
Mrs Irina Gewinner (Institute of Sociology, University of Hanover)

Since the year 2015, the number of newly arrived refugees in Germany has increased dramatically. The immigrants have been unevenly distributed across the federal states (BAMF 2016), a circumstance that can differentially affect their integration in the host society. Therefore, an appropriate research on refugees should involve studies on a regional level.
An attempt at such an investigation has been made at the University of Hanover, nested in Lower Saxony. Lower Saxony represents a federal state that received about 8% of applications for asylum submitted in Germany in 2015, and 11% in 2016 (BAMF 2016), thus occupying a fourth place among the federal states with highest rates of received refugees. Therefore we chose to study the expectations and experience of newly immigrated refugees to Hanover.
When pretesting the survey we came across a lot of difficulties, we were not used to from previous migration research: Likert scales were difficult to adopt into the Arabic language, participants were not used to anonymous questionnaires worked or constructing proper questions on traumatic experiences were posing many challenges. In this paper and presentation we were planning to discuss the challenges we were phasing during our study with refugees.

3. Measuring skills of refugees and migrants entering Europe
Mr Quy-Toan Do (World Bank)
Mr Gero Carletto (World Bank)
Mrs Maria Davalos (World Bank)
Mrs Marta Encinas-Martin (OECD)
Ms Harriet Mugera (World Bank)

What policies are needed to foster the integration of refugees in European labor markets? To inform such policy question, measurement of refugee real skills levels that are valued by the European labor market is important so to design appropriate interventions. While these skills are difficult to measure in survey context, proxies include education and professional experience. In the case of refugee populations, and in particular the ones recently arrived to Europe ( via Italy or Greece), the heterogeneity in education systems and its quality and the variety of skills required to complete a priori similar professional tasks – let alone biased reporting – cast doubts on the on the real value of those questions to foster proper integration. In a World Bank survey of refugees and migrants in Italy and Greece undertaken between December 2016 and April 2017, we also implement an adapted version of OECD’s Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC), which delivers comparable test results across individuals of different backgrounds, nationalities, and languages. We look at the existent correlation between the reported education and their real level of the skills assessed, we compared them with the European PIAAC benchmarks, in order to investigate the determinants of this relation that could help their integration in Europe.

4. Surveying Refugees. Two Experiments on Anonymity and Incentivation.
Dr Johannes Bauer (Ludwig-Maximilians Universität Munich, Institute for Sociology)
Mr Felix Bader (University of Mannheim)

This survey, conducted in 28 refugee accommodations in Munich, experimentally investigates the effect of anonymity assured to respondents and the effect of different types of incentives.

During the asylum procedures, asylum seekers live in extraordinary life circumstances. Due to their dependencies from the asylum granting institutions, respondents might fear repercussions by giving truthful answer in a questionnaire. One standard to reduce this fear in population surveys is to assure anonymity. In order to estimate the gains of warranted anonymity we experimentally vary the degree to which respondents were told that they were anonymous.

The second experiment focuses on incentives given in surveys. Due to the fact that the social services department in Munich was concerned that monetary incentives would create inequalities and tensions between refugees, we experimentally tested which type of incentive would work best. We either gave no incentive to participate, a chocolate bar or a small monetary incentive which was not expected to cause problems in the refugee accommodations.

Both experiments are analysed with regards the unit nonresponse, item nonresponse and their effect on variable estimates. The results give strong indications that refugees differ in their reactions to assured anonymity and incentives, compared to the respondents in common western population surveys.