Two premises motivate the “Immigration and Integration” project that is able to get off the ground with seed money from the FSI Policy Implementation Lab. First, there is compelling evidence of systematic discrimination, integration failure, and growing hostility towards immigrants throughout Western Europe. Second, while there is a range of innovative policies developed across Europe in the past decade to address this compelling public concern, existing research falls short in providing rigorous evidence on the success or failure of these policies. The goal of the laboratory is to mobilize research teams in Europe and the US that involve students as well as faculty, to provide the best evaluations possible on policies seeking to address a compelling public concern.
The “Immigration and Integration” lab, led by Stanford political scientists Jens Hainmueller and David Laitin, will focus research on three policy pillars: (1) Integration Contracts; (2) Citizenship Acquisition; and (3) Asylum Status. Integration contracts, now widely employed throughout Europe, require new immigrants to enroll in courses on language and national values as a condition for continued validation of work permits. Research teams will evaluate the success of these contracts by comparing immigrants who arrived just before contract implementation and just after, in what is called a “regression discontinuity design”, to learn if these courses instill greater understanding of the host country by immigrants and better access to its labor market. The route to citizenship varies across Europe, and there is a demonstrated correlation between citizenship acquisition and success on the labor market. However, we do not know if it is citizenship that is leading to better integration or whether it is those who have better skills in integrating who are also getting citizenship. The “Immigration and Integration” lab will implement an “encouragement design” to help qualified immigrants acquire citizenship, and compare those who got this treatment with similar immigrants who received a placebo. From this set-up, researchers will be able to identify more precisely than heretofore the returns to citizenship. Regularizing asylum status throughout Europe is a complex legal process, and in many countries, those aspiring refugees are not permitted to work in the host country. The consequences of this queue for asylum status are not known. Therefore, the “Immigration and Integration” lab will measure the length of time before regularization to learn the potential negative returns of being in legal limbo for future integration. For all three of these policy arenas, the FSI supported research will enable Hainmueller and Laitin along with their research teams to evaluate the returns for successful integration of these policies, better to advise policy makers as to what treatments work, and why