Integration Research 2.0—Harnessing the Power of New Data Sources to Advance Knowledge on Behaviour and Attitudes of Migrants and Natives

Research question/goal: 

For decades, social scientists have mainly relied on self-reported data from surveys to study integration efforts of refugees and migrants. The same approach is used to analyse natives’ attitudes on immigrants and immigration policies. Together with administrative records (e.g., from asylum registration centres, welfare agencies, and employment offices), these data are an important resource for decision-makers on every federal level to manage integration tasks and design integration policies. However, the collection of these data can be slow and expensive (e.g., with regard to conducting large-scale surveys or obtaining access to administrative data), and they are susceptible to socially desirable responding (e.g., when measuring sensitive attitudes and behaviours through self-reports). Consequently, the resulting findings are often only available after a long time and potentially biased.

With the financial support of the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, this project aims at overcoming these issues. In particular, we draw on our past work and propose to study three new forms of data and novel approaches to data collection that promise faster, more frequent, and potentially also more accurate information for social science research in general and studies on immigration and integration in particular: (1) passively collected data from smartphone sensors and apps, (2) aggregated internet search queries, and (3) responses obtained from voting advice applications such as the German Wahl-O-Mat. Each of these approaches has its limitations, but they could make a significant contribution by complementing traditional data collection and overcoming some of its shortcomings.

The results from this project will inform methodological best practices in using these new data sources as supplements to traditional ones, especially when examining integration-related topics. The findings will thus help advance the field of integration research and the social sciences in general by adapting new technological possibilities that will enable researchers to answer existing research questions better and to investigate completely new issues.

Current stage: 

In 2022, we conducted a systematic literature review on the use of Google Trends data in the social sciences, and we are working on a focused review on their use in immigration and integration research. Data collection for a validation study on this topic is in preparation. Additionally, we are working on a systematic literature review on the use of voting advice applications (VAA) for research purposes. Finally, we have run an online experiment with 2,000 native and migrant participants to test whether including personalized feedback a la VAA at the end of a survey leads to more honest answers to sensitive questions.

Fact sheet

Fritz Thyssen Foundation
2021 to 2023
Data Sources: 
Survey data, Google Trends, smartphone data
Geographic Space: