Integration at the Neighborhood Level: Cross-National Comparisons of Syrian Refugee Segregation, Principal Investigator (2023-2027)

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Photo by EMILIAC

Overview of the Project:

Cities across the world experienced influxes of refugees in recent decades, contributing to a rise in ethnic residential segregation. The aim of this study is to answer: what factors drive the formation of “ethnic enclaves”? The project innovatively develops a generalizable theory of the causes of segregation from simultaneous perspectives of both migrant and host population communities.

It runs face-to-face surveys to provide voice to marginalized immigrant populations often left out of research due to researcher preference for cheaper and easier online surveying. A major empirical contribution of this study is its large-n data employing experimental methods, informed by a series of in-depth interviews. The study expands our understanding of segregation through cross-country comparisons. Replicating aspects of earlier VR-funded research on refugees living in cities in the global south (Amman, Jordan and Adana, Turkey) allows for comparisons with cities of the global north (Gothenburg, Sweden and San Diego, United States). Focusing the study on a single set of migrants —Syrians who currently constitute the largest displaced population in the world—allows increased precision for these cross-country comparisons. Like many refugees, Syrians have been displaced for more than a decade now.

Project Researchers: Kristen Kao (Principal Investigator, University of Gothenburg), Karen Ferree (University of California, San Diego), and Jacob Sohlberg (University of Gothenburg).

Funded by: the Swedish Refugee Council (Vetenskapsrådet 5.1 million SEK (~500,000 USD).

Project Aims and Purposes:

Studying preferences over where to live offers a chance to study simultaneous host and migrant perspectives. Which migrants/host-community citizens prefer to live in migrant/host community enclaves? Can variations in socio-economic characteristics of a neighborhood overcome these prejudices? And finally, what factors affect whether host population members or migrants accept or reject interactions with one other?

At the broadest level, studying housing location preferences offers an opportunity to learn about the origins of neighborhood level diversity, a factor seen as driving a wide range of important outcomes like social cohesion and trust, public goods provision, and voting.

Project Methodology:

The project proposes embedding conjoint experiments within a larger survey mapping socio-economic differentiation of ± 3000 Syrians paired with ± 3000 host population members spread in the secondary cities of Gothenburg, Sweden and San Diego, United States (US).

Each of these cities has received a large influx of Syrian refugees since the start of the crisis in 2011, the great majority of whom remain displaced and are likely to remain so over the long-term. In each country, the sampling design will aim for representative samples of neighborhoods using the most recent census in each city to purposively select neighborhoods of differing ethnic compositions in the sample and random selection of households for inclusion into the study. About even proportions of Syrians and host population participants will be included in each study site.

Project Significance and Novelty:

This project brings methodological innovation to the residential segregation work, which tends to ask direct questions about willingness to live next to another set of migrants. Such an approach invites social desirability bias in responses since individuals may be shy to admit attitudes signaling discrimination and prejudice. We apply survey-based experimental methods to causally identify the factors that lead to residential (de-)segregation.

Photo by  Chris Salviati

Our research also allows us to dig further into earlier findings suggesting that preferences over residential location and attitudes towards migrants are complex and multidimensional. Ethnic composition, socio-economic factors, and social relationships with neighbors have all been shown to be important in determining segregation. Application of a conjoint experimental design is ideal for interrogating a complex question like migration where many factors are expected to simultaneously drive preferences. The method not only allows us to weigh the effects of varying factors against one another, but also to examine them in interaction with one another.

This project can help to overcome what is known in the social sciences as the “replicability crisis,” where findings from one context are not generalizable to other contexts, through conducting global north-south comparisons of preferences among both migrants and their host communities. The findings of this project are to be built upon and compared to a large-n survey-based project currently being conducted in the global south. For Further information on the SIPGI Project (click here).

Svensk Sammanfattning: Integration på grannskapsnivå: Tvärnationella jämförelser av segregation av syriska flyktingar

Det senaste årtiondets ökning av antalet flyktingar har skapat en grogrund för ytterligare boendesegregation. Segregation kopplas till sämre integration eftersom migranterna då får svårare att lära sig värdlandets språk. Segregation hänger också ihop med negativa konsekvenser för utbildning, arbetsliv och välbefinnande.
Syftet med detta treåriga projekt är att förstå vilka faktorer som leder till etnisk boendesegregation. Tidigare forskning har undersökt faktorer som påverkar majoritetsbefolkningens attityder till sitt lands migrationspolitik, men däremot vet vi mindre om deras attityder till migranter och flyktingar i grannskapet. En möjlighet som vi kommer att undersöka är att värdlandets befolkning är mer positiv till flyktingar så länge de inte bosätter sig i grannskapet. Vi kommer också att undersöka orsakerna till migranternas beslut kring integration, d.v.s. att integrera sig eller att bo i etniskt segregerade områden. Trots att dessa val har långtgående konsekvenser för både samhället och individen vet vi förvånansvärt lite kring vilka faktorer som påverkar dem. Våra undersökningar bygger på stora urval av dels migranter och flyktingar från Syrien och dels personer som bott länge i värdlandet. Studierna görs i två städer: Göteborg, Sverige, och San Diego, USA. Syrier är den största gruppen flyktingar i världen och den största invandrargruppen i Sverige. Deltagarna i studierna kommer att delta i experiment som syftar till att undersöka orsakerna till preferenser kring boendesegregation. En mindre del av urvalen kommer också att djupintervjuas. Undersökningar i två länder ökar möjligheterna att dra generella slutsatser.
Då forskargruppen har erfarenheter av att jobba med liknande frågor och grupper i Sverige, USA och Mellanöstern har den goda förutsättningar för att skapa ny kunskap som får hög spridning. I förlängningen kommer beslutsfattare att dra nytta den för att kunna åtgärda segregationens negativa konsekvenser.

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