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18 December 2020

Study finds positive attitude towards migration 'helps with successful integration of refugees'

The attitude of local populations towards migration is as important as local unemployment in achieving the successful social and economic integration of refugees, a new study has shown.

A positive attitude towards refugees and migration can help with successful integration, the study found.

A positive attitude towards migration among people in an area in which refugees are allocated to live translates into an increased likelihood that refugees will enter into employment or education, with attitudes also having a “positive effect” on net monthly wages.

Conversely, placing refugees in areas with high rates of local unemployment and less positive attitudes towards migration (as measured by the Migrant Acceptance Index) negatively affects their multi-dimensional integration. The study also found that refugees who received help to find a job, those with tertiary education and those with satisfactory health status consistently exhibited better integration outcomes.

The findings were revealed in a new paper, First Time Around: Local Conditions and Multi-dimensional Integration of Refugees, co-authored by Dr Cevat Giray Aksoy, from King’s College London and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Dr Panu Poutvaara, from the ifo Institute and Felicitas Schikora, from the DIW Berlin.

The paper focussed on refugees who arrived in Germany between 2013-2016 and who had subsequently been interviewed in the IAB-BAMF-SOEP Survey of Refugees, the largest representative survey of refugees in Europe.

The refugees were primarily from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan and were allocated across German states on a pre-defined allocation scheme (called the Koningstein Key), which measures the tax revenue and population size of states.


Our results highlight the importance of initial conditions for facilitating refugee integration. They also have implications for the design of refugee allocation policies.

Dr Cevat Giray Aksoy

Dr Aksoy said: “Our results highlight the importance of initial conditions for facilitating refugee integration. They also have implications for the design of refugee allocation policies.

“Although there is a strong political argument in favour of allocating refugees across the whole country, our results suggest that these policies come at a significant cost for subsequent integration outcomes for those refugees placed in worse performing and less welcoming regions.

“One possible way to address these concerns, while maintaining the principle of allocating refugees across the country, would be to change the weighting scheme to highlight even more the integration capacity of different states.”

In terms of fiscal cost, the researchers calculated that, allocating as low as 10,000 randomly selected working-age refugees to a county with a lower unemployment rate would generate an annual saving of more than two million and increase the success of refugee integration.

The study also has implications for wider European policy towards refugee resettlement, the researchers said, with calls for countries across the continent to accommodate set quotes refugees likely to worsen integration outcomes.

Dr Aksoy said: “Many EU member states, notably Germany, have called for a system in which asylum seekers would be reallocated across EU member states.

“Our findings suggest that, in addition to political difficulties, such a quota system could result in worse integration outcomes across the EU, as refugees placed in regions with high unemployment and negative attitudes towards immigrants would face a risk of worse subsequent economic and social integration.”

In this story

Cevat Giray Aksoy

Lecturer in Economics