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Between 2015 and 2019, more than 3.5 million individuals applied for asylum in one of the 28 member states in the EU. This has been the largest influx of asylum seekers in Europe since World War II and has created a range of policy challenges as governments debates on how to integrate these new arrivals. Researchers have begun to explore asylum seeker integration in Europe, but primarily by analyzing the reactions of native Europeans. Much less is known about how integration is proceeding from asylum seekers' perspectives.
This paper uses a new German data set to analyze how the local context affects whether asylum seekers feel welcome. Germany is a large and diverse country and asylum seeker integration outcomes are likely to vary across space. Geographic variation has long been a topic of research in studies of immigrant integration because of abundant evidence that integration outcomes vary widely across space. Yet it is difficult to identify how local contextual factors affect those integration outcomes because immigrants select into local contexts in ways that may be correlated with their integration. In the presented study, the author leverages the as-if random assignment of asylum seekers to different German counties.
The central finding of the research is that asylum seekers feel more welcome in German counties with larger percentages of foreign residents. The research also finds that under some circumstances asylum seekers may feel more welcome in urban as opposed to rural counties, in counties with lower unemployment rates and in counties with lower levels of support for the right-wing anti-immigrant party AfD. The findings have several implications for understanding of asylum seeker integration and contextual effects more broadly.