Nicole Schwitter, Ulf Liebe
Using Natural Experiments to Uncover Effects of Anti-Refugee Riots on Attitudes of Refugees

Sociology, 2024: 58, issue 1, pp. 253-262
ISSN: 0038-0385 (print), 1469-8684 (online)

While previous research has focused on terrorist attacks and natives’ attitudes towards immigration, we examine the effect of anti-refugee attacks on refugees’ attitude towards the host country. We use survey data from the 33rd wave of the German Socio-Economic Panel as the fieldwork period overlapped with the infamous anti-refugee riots in Bautzen and as the survey includes a refugee sample. Making use of this natural experiment, we find significant and negative short-term effects of the riots on respondents’ perception of Germany, as well as low geographic variation. Such natural experiments in the form of unexpected events during survey design offer social scientists the possibilities to identify causal effects from observational survey data as they split respondents into a control and treatment group. Given the vast amount of (cross-)national survey data, often including specific subsamples, our study demonstrates the great potential of natural experiments for sociological research on minority groups in society.