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The 2015 Refugee Crisis in Germany: Concerns about Immigration and Populism

SOEPpapers 966, 34 S.

Alessandro Sola


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This paper investigates the effect of the refugee crisis, and the related government’s asylum policy, on concerns about immigration of the German population. Exploiting exogenous variation in survey interview timing of the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), I employ a difference-in-differences strategy to estimate the short-term causal effect of the refugee crisis on concerns about immigration. The estimated effect is substantial, representing an increase in concerns of around 22%, compared to the pre-refugee crisis baseline level. Interestingly, I find that this increase was twice as large for East Germans, compared to West Germans. In a second section, I show concerns about immigration are positively correlated with political support for the relatively new, right-wing populist party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). However, using the variability in concerns generated by the refugee crisis, I find no evidence of a causal effect of concerns on political preferences in the short term.

JEL-Classification: F22;J61;D72;H12
Keywords: Concerns about immigration, refugee crisis, Germany, AfD, populism, political preferences
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