The Social Integration of International Migrants: Evidence from the Networks of Syrians in Germany

81 Pages Posted: 27 May 2022

See all articles by Michael Bailey

Michael Bailey

Facebook

Drew Johnston

Harvard University

Martin Koenen

Harvard University

Theresa Kuchler

New York University (NYU)

Dominic Russel

Harvard University

Johannes Stroebel

New York University (NYU); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 2022

Abstract

We use de-identified data from Facebook to study the social integration of Syrian migrants in Germany, a country that received a large influx of refugees during the Syrian Civil War. We construct measures of migrants' social integration based on Syrians' friendship links to Germans, their use of the German language, and their participation in local social groups. We find large variation in Syrians' social integration across German counties, and use a movers' research design to document that these differences are largely due to causal effects of place. Regional differences in the social integration of Syrians are shaped both by the rate at which German natives befriend other locals in general (general friendliness) and the relative rate at which they befriend local Syrian migrants versus German natives (relative friending). We follow the friending behavior of Germans that move across locations to show that both general friendliness and relative friending are more strongly affected by place-based effects such as local institutions than by persistent individual characteristics of natives (e.g., attitudes toward neighbors or migrants). Relative friending is higher in areas with lower unemployment and more completed government-sponsored integration courses. Using variation in teacher availability as an instrument, we find that integration courses had a substantial causal effect on the social integration of Syrian migrants. We also use fluctuations in the presence of Syrian migrants across high school cohorts to show that natives with quasi-random exposure to Syrians in school are more likely to befriend other Syrian migrants in other settings, suggesting that contact between groups can shape subsequent attitudes towards migrants.

Keywords: Immigration, integration, place effects, Social Networks

JEL Classification: D85, F22, J15, K37

Suggested Citation

Bailey, Michael and Johnston, Drew and Koenen, Martin and Kuchler, Theresa and Russel, Dominic and Stroebel, Johannes, The Social Integration of International Migrants: Evidence from the Networks of Syrians in Germany (April 2022). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP17174, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4121349

Michael Bailey (Contact Author)

Facebook ( email )

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Drew Johnston

Harvard University ( email )

Martin Koenen

Harvard University ( email )

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Theresa Kuchler

New York University (NYU) ( email )

Bobst Library, E-resource Acquisitions
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Dominic Russel

Harvard University ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
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Johannes Stroebel

New York University (NYU) ( email )

Bobst Library, E-resource Acquisitions
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New York, NY 10003-711
United States

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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