Diversity without Adversity: Social Tie Formation with Natives Mitigates Identity-based Bias towards Refugees

30/04/2019 15:00

Konstantinos Matakos (King's College London) Diversity without Adversity: Social Tie Formation with Natives Mitigates Identity-based Bias towards Refugees *Joint with Anna Getmansky (LSE) and Tolga Sinmazdemir (LSE).


Can refugees' acquired attributes and effort to integrate offset –at least partially- existing biases based on theirimmutable identity characteristics such as ethnicity or religion? And do those attributes weigh in differentlydepending on the type of (economic, social, or political) integration? These questions bear significant policyimplications for successful refugee integration, especially in Turkey—a Muslim-majority country hosting morethan 3.5 million refugees—which is considered by the EU as the ideal place to accommodate most of the Syrianrefugees. We conduct an online conjoint survey experiment in Turkey among about 2,400 respondents, in whichwe present them with pairs of Syrian refugee profiles that vary by gender, age, marital status, ethnicity, religion,education, social connection with local citizens, knowledge of Turkish language, fighting experience andvictimization in the Syrian civil war. We then ask our respondents which of the two profiles of refugees theywould prefer to be there neighbours (social integration), whom they would support giving a work permit(economic integration), and whom should be granted citizenship (political integration). We find little supportfor economic competition arguments. 

Instead, structural factors—religion and to a larger extent ethnicity—affect support for integration. In particular, Christian, and even more so Kurdish, and Arab refugees are dislikedrelative to Sunnis, Alawites, and Turkomans, respectively. In addition to structural factors, we also find thatrefugees with a college degree receive more support for integration. In addition, knowing the Turkish languageand having social ties with locals can ameliorate some identity-based biases they might be facing. We refer tothese strategies—learning the local language and developing local connections—as proactive steps that either the refugees themselves, or organizations seeking to promote their integration can undertake. That said, we alsofind a very strong bias against Arab refugees, for whom education, knowing the language, and having Turkishfriends have very limited, if any, effect on support for their integration. These strategies are much morebeneficial for Kurdish and Christian refugees. 

For Arab refugees, being victims of torture in the civil warpromotes support for social and economic integration. Overall, our findings shed light on the channels thatcondition natives' attitudes towards refugees and inform public policies that aim at facilitating their integrationin their host communities. They also suggest that in some cases such policies might have a limited effect.