Citizenship, Identity and Trust in a Migration Society: Combining a Large-Scale Behavioral Experiment in Schools with a Natural Policy Experiment

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IZA Seminar

Place: Schaumburg-Lippe-Str. 9, 53113 Bonn

Date: 21.11.2017, 12:15 - 13:30


Presentation by 

Helmut Rainer (Ifo Institute for Economic Research)


A fundamental aspect of migrant integration pertains to non-market interactions between natives and immigrants. A central question in this context is how individuals of different, possibly oppositional, identities approach social dilemmas. We have (i) run an artefactual field experiment based on the trust game with a large sample (N=4,436) of German adolescents; (ii) allowed participants to condition their strategies on the migration background of their opponents; and (iii) matched the experimental data with individual background information from an extensive, self-conducted survey. Our first main result reveals an oppositional culture of trust discrimination: native children extent their trust in almost equal measure to native and immigrant opponents, respectively. Immigrant children, by contrast, show a high degree of trust towards those with whom they share a migration background, but a low willingness to trust their native peers. On inspection, the differential trust decisions of immigrants turn out to be statistically unjustified and not driven by wrong stereotypes, which points to identity-based social preferences. For our second main result, we connect our artefactual field experiment with a natural policy experiment which saw the introduction of a widely debated integration policy: birthright citizenship, which automatically grants children born to foreign parents the nationality of the host country. We find that the policy substantially reduced the degree of trust discrimination among male, but not among female, immigrants. This effect is accompanied by an improved educational integration of immigrant males.

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