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Using smartphone technology for research on refugees in Germany

September 18, 2018, 1 pm

GESIS, Mannheim, B2,8 (right)

Florian Keusch


Researchers attempting to survey refugee populations face a number of methodological issues, in part due to their transiency. Collecting longitudinal data using traditional methods (e.g., f-2-f, telephone) is a particular challenge. We explore the use of smartphone technology as an alternative form of data collection, combining passive mobile data collection, i.e., the automatic collection of smartphone data about an individual’s behavior, with mobile web surveys. While passive mobile data collection is still a relatively unexplored method, this approach allows for collecting richer and potentially more accurate data then just self-reports from surveys. However, whether people in general and refugees in particular are willing to participate in such studies allowing automated data collection has not been studied yet.

In this talk, I will present the design and results of a smartphone study with refugees in Germany. We first conducted personal interviews with refugees and collected consent to contact participants again via email or WhatsApp message for further data collection on their smartphones. Participants were then invited to participate in four follow-up web surveys over the course of three months about different aspects of their integration into Germany, labor market participation, personality traits, and political positions. In addition, participants were invited to download a research app to their smartphones for passive mobile data collection to infer measures of refugees’ mobility, social interaction, and labor market participation over time. We also conducted an experiment on the effect of incentives on participation rates.

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About the Speaker

Florian Keusch is Assistant Professor of Statistics and Methodology at the University of Mannheim School of Social Sciences and Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Joint Program in Survey Methodology (JPSM) at the University of Maryland. He also serves on the Faculty Board of the International Program in Survey and Data Science (IPSDS). He received his PhD in Social and Economic Sciences (Dr.rer.soc.oec.) from WU, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria, in 2011. Before joining the University of Mannheim, he was a Post-doc Research Fellow at the Program in Survey Methodology at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research. His research focuses on nonresponse and measurement error in Web and mobile Web surveys, passive mobile data collection, and visual design effects in questionnaires.