When do elected officials help immigrants become citizens? Answers from a field experiment in Germany.

Ruth Ditlmann
27.09.2016, GESIS Mannheim (B2,8 links), 13:45

The acquisition of citizenship has been shown to significantly improve the integration of immigrants. Yet, many eligible immigrants do not naturalize, and the naturalization rate in Germany remains comparatively low. Even if immigrants are eligible to become citizens, previous work in the United States shows that they can benefit from the assistance of local politicians who can help them navigate complex bureaucracies.  While less is known about assistance of local politicians in Germany, local politicians are involved in the naturalization process through their participation in naturalization ceremonies. As a result, it is critical to study how elites mediate the naturalization process. We sent emails to local politicians from putative immigrants who seek help in the naturalization process in the form of a correspondence study. Our emails vary along three different pairs of treatment and control conditions: (i) Turkish versus Canadian nationality; (ii) intent to obtain dual citizenship versus single German citizenship and renunciation of prior nationality; (iii) and displays of integration into German society versus no such displays. We set the eight possible conditions by varying the text of the emails, including the constituent’s name and nationality. We selected these three factors based on two theories that can explain variation in local politicians’ willingness to assist: public debates and perceptions regarding integration and citizenship on the one hand, and social identity theory on the other. Preliminary results show preferential treatment for the Turkish versus Canadian immigrant. They further reveal some heterogeneous treatment effects by politician party membership: Politicians on the left respond more favorable to Turks who want to become fully German than politicians on the right – the Right punishes Turks who shed their Turkish identity. These findings are consistent with social identity theory.

Zur Person
Ruth Ditlmann is Research Fellow in the Department of Migration and Diversity, WZB Berlin Social Science Center. She holds a PhD in social psychology from Yale University and previously worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University.  Her research is on how psychological processes interact with institutions (e.g., political, legal), primarily in the context of immigration/integration and ethnic conflict. Methodologically, she uses primarily laboratory and field experiments.