Migration and Forced Displacement

[5] Voted In, Standing Out: Public Response to Immigrants’ Political Accession. (with Stephanie Zonszein)
American Journal of Political Science, 2023, forthcoming. drawing

Abstract What is the reaction of the host society to immigrants’ political integration? We argue that when they win political office, immigrants pose a threat to natives’ dominant position, triggering hostility from a violent-prone fringe, the mass public and the elites. We test these dynamics across UK general elections, using hate crime police records, public opinion data, and text data from over 500,000 newspaper articles. We identify the public’s reactions with a regression discontinuity design of close elections between minority-immigrant and dominant group candidates. Our findings suggest a public backlash against ethnic minority immigrants’ integration into majority settings.

[4] Inclusive Refugee-Hosting in Uganda Improves Local Development and Prevents Public Backlash. (with Yang-Yang Zhou, Shuning Ge)
World Development, 2023, 166: pp.106-203. drawing drawing drawing

Abstract Large arrivals of refugees raise concerns about potential tensions with host communities, particularly if refugees are viewed as an out-group competing for limited material resources and crowding out public services. To address these concerns, calls have increased to allocate humanitarian aid in ways that also benefit host communities. This study tests whether the increased presence of refugees, when coupled with humanitarian aid, improves public service delivery for host communities and dampens potential social conflict. We study this question in Uganda, one of the largest and most inclusive refugee-hosting countries. The data combines geospatial information on refugee settlements with original longitudinal data on primary and secondary schools, road density, health clinics, and health utilization. We report two key findings. First, even after the 2014 arrival of over 1 million South Sudanese refugees, host communities with greater refugee presence experienced substantial improvements in local development. Second, using public opinion data, we find no evidence that refugee presence has been associated with more negative (or positive) attitudes towards migrants or migration policy.

[3] Locked Down, Lashing Out: COVID-19 Effects on Asian Hate Crimes in Italy. (with Gemma Dipoppa, Stephanie Zonszein)
Journal of Politics, 2023, 85(2): pp.389-404. drawing drawing drawing drawing

Abstract Covid-19 caused a significant health and economic crisis, a condition identified as conducive to stigmatization and hateful behavior against minority groups. It is however unclear whether the threat of infection triggers violence in addition to stigmatization, and whether a violent reaction can happen at the onset of an unexpected economic shock before social hierarchies can be disrupted. Using a novel database of hate crimes across Italy, we show that (i) hate crimes against Asians increased substantially at the pandemic onset, and that (ii) the increase was concentrated in cities with higher expected unemployment, but not higher mortality. We then examine individual, local and national mobilization as mechanisms. We find that (iii) a xenophobic national discourse and local far-right institutions motivate hate crimes, while we find no support for the role of individual prejudice. Our study identifies new conditions triggering hateful behavior, advancing our understanding of factors hindering migrant integration.

[2] Liberal Displacement Policies Attract Forced Migrants in the Global South. (with Christopher W. Blair, Jeremy M. Weinstein)
American Political Science Review, 2022, 116(1): pp.351-358. drawing drawing drawing drawing

Abstract Most forced migrants around the world are displaced within the Global South. We study whether and how de jure policies on forced displacement affect where forced migrants flee in the developing world. Recent evidence from the Global North suggests migrants gravitate toward liberal policy environments. However, existing analyses expect de jure policies to have little effect in the developing world, given strong presumptions that policy enforcement is poor and policy knowledge is low. Using original data on de jure displacement policies for 92 developing countries and interviews with 126 refugees and policy makers, we document a robust association between liberal de jure policies and forced migrant flows. Gravitation toward liberal environments is conditional on factors that facilitate the diffusion of policy knowledge, such as transnational ethnic kin. Policies for free movement, services, and livelihoods are especially attractive. Utility-maximizing models of migrant decision making must take de jure policy provisions into account.

[1] Forced Displacement and Asylum Policy in the Developing World. (with Christopher W. Blair, Jeremy M. Weinstein)
International Organization, 2022, 76(2): pp.337-378. drawing drawing drawing drawing

Abstract Little theoretical or empirical work examines migration policy in the developing world. We develop and test a theory that distinguishes the drivers of policy reform and factors influencing the direction of reform. We introduce an original data set of de jure asylum and refugee policies covering more than ninety developing countries that are presently excluded from existing indices of migration policy. Examining descriptive trends in the data, we find that unlike in the global North, forced displacement policies in the global South have become more liberal over time. Empirically, we test the determinants of asylum policymaking, bolstering our quantitative results with qualitative evidence from interviews in Uganda. A number of key findings emerge. Intense, proximate civil wars are the primary impetus for asylum policy change in the global South. Liberalizing changes are made by regimes led by political elites whose ethnic kin confront discrimination or violence in neighboring countries. There is no generalizable evidence that developing countries liberalize asylum policy in exchange for economic assistance from Western actors. Distinct frameworks are needed to understand migration policymaking in developing versus developed countries.