Come and study with us at Neuchâtel!

Admissions are open until 30 April 2022, wide choice of courses, friendly atmosphere… and if you’re into migration, mobility, refugees, we’ve really got you covered with the MA in Migration and Citizenship — including options to study abroad. Come join us!

New project: The long-term impact of refugees on the local population

Today, we’re starting a new project, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. Working with Natalia Malancu, Bruno Lanz, Marco Pecoraro, and Philippe Wanner, we will assess the long-term impact of refugees on the labour market, health, reproductive behaviour, well-being, and attitudinal outcomes of the resident population. By looking at past refugee flows, we hope to better understand the likely impact of the rapid arrival of many refugees.

From a purely economic point of view, migration is an efficient means to allocate workers to employers. Indeed, for centuries migration was not only sought by individuals seeking to improve their lives, but also actively encouraged by employers and countries: guest-worker programmes, recruitment drives abroad, or the purported ‘war for talents’ all demonstrate that migration can be encouraged for economic reasons.

By contrast, refugees are driven away from their countries and do not primarily migrate for economic reasons. Fleeing desolate situations and conflict in the country of origin, refugees do not necessarily have the skills and experience to meet economic demands, unlike voluntary migration for economic reasons. Because refugees tend to leave their countries with comparatively little preparation – they flee in reaction to an immediate threat – their economic and social integration (e.g. lack of language) may constitute a further challenge. In the country of destination, some may resist the arrival of refugees — worried about wage dumping, costs of social benefits, tax increases, overpopulation, or a threat to local culture and traditions.

Whilst we know about the potential impact of immigrants and refugees theoretically, and despite an important literature on the economic and attitudinal effects of immigration on the mainstream society, we do not understand well how forced migration and refugees affect the resident population, particularly in Europe. We lack good evidence of the likely long-term impact and how to best handle the integration of immigrants and refugees. In the project, we will focus on three major areas: labour market effects of refugees, effects of refugee arrival on the health, reproductive behaviour and well-being of the resident population, and the implications of refugees on attitudes to immigration. The big bet of the project is that by studying past patterns of rapid arrival of refugees (from former Yugoslavia), we’re in a better position to understand the impact of more recent refugee flows.

We have no idea — same analysis, different results

In a recent paper, Akira Igarashi and James Laurence look at anti-immigrant attitudes in the UK and Japan. Like my 2019 paper in JEMS, they and how they highlight the limited research on non-Western countries, but they analysis they do is much more similar to what Sjoerdje van Heerden and I did in Urban Studies. Them like us relied on panel data to get a better handle on changing attitudes to immigrants. Them like us looked at the share of foreigners in the area (this relates to theoretical expectations that individual attitudes to immigrants reflect changes in the share of foreigners in the area; we refer to the same theories). We both used fixed-effect panel models. They find that “increasing immigration harms attitudes towards immigrant”, while we report that “a larger change in the proportion of immigrant residents is associated with more positive views on immigrants among natives” — yes, the exact opposite!

Need another example? Several studies examine the impact of sudden exposure to refugees on attitudes to immigrants and votes for radical-right parties. Such sudden exposure happened for example in Austria and Germany in 2015. In separate analyses, Andreas Steinmayr 2020 finds a clear increase in support for the radical-right, as we find in the work by Lukas Rudolph and Markus Wagner. Max Schaub, Johanna Gereke and Delia Baldassarri, by contrast “record null effects for all outcomes”. Same situation, same strategy to obtain the results.

We could now start the detective work, examining the small differences in modelling, ponder about the impact of how we define neighbourhoods, invoke possible differences between the countries (are the Netherlands an expectation, when the UK and Japan yield the same results? — not likely). Or we could admit how little we know, how much uncertainty there is in what we do, how vague our theories are in the social sciences that we can come to quite different conclusions in quite similar papers. I guess what we can see here is simply a scientific search for answers (it’s not like our research output would otherwise disagree so clearly). It’s probably also a call for more meta-level research: systematic analyses that synthesize what we do and don’t know, because even though individual papers sometimes contradict, we know quite a lot!

Heerden, Sjoerdje van, and Didier Ruedin. 2019. ‘How Attitudes towards Immigrants Are Shaped by Residential Context: The Role of Neighbourhood Dynamics, Immigrant Visibility, and Areal Attachment’. Urban Studies 56 (2): 317–34.

Igarashi, Akira, and James Laurence. 2021. ‘How Does Immigration Affect Anti-Immigrant Sentiment, and Who Is Affected Most? A Longitudinal Analysis of the UK and Japan Cases’. Comparative Migration Studies 9 (1): 24.

Rudolph, Lukas, and Markus Wagner. 2021. ‘Europe’s Migration Crisis: Local Contact and Out‐group Hostility’. European Journal of Political Research, May, 1475-6765.12455.

Ruedin, Didier. 2019. ‘Attitudes to Immigrants in South Africa: Personality and Vulnerability’. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 45 (7): 1108–26.

Schaub, Max, Johanna Gereke, and Delia Baldassarri. 2020. ‘Strangers in Hostile Lands: Exposure to Refugees and Right-Wing Support in Germany’s Eastern Regions’. Comparative Political Studies, September, 001041402095767.

Steinmayr, Andreas. 2020. ‘Contact versus Exposure: Refugee Presence and Voting for the Far-Right’. The Review of Economics and Statistics, May, 1–47.

Zschirnt, Eva, and Didier Ruedin. 2016. ‘Ethnic Discrimination in Hiring Decisions: A Meta-Analysis of Correspondence Tests 1990–2015’. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 42 (7): 1115–34.

Hiring: Postdoctoral Researcher

We have an open position for a

Post-Doctoral Researcher (30 months, 80% FTE)

The start date will be 1 September 2021 or as agreed. The successful applicant is expected to contribute to a research project on the long-term impact of refugee shocks on the labour market, health, reproductive behaviour, well-being, and attitudinal outcomes of the resident population (quasi-experimental setup).

Requirements: You have completed a doctorate in one of the social sciences (preferably economics; sociology, or political sciences). Excellent knowledge of quantitative methods is required (preferably Stata or R). The project uses register data, as well as data from the Labour Force Survey, the Swiss Health Survey, post-election surveys, and results from selected referendums and popular initiatives. You are open to collaborate in an inter-disciplinary team. Experience in the analysis of register data, matching datasets, experimental methods and a keen interest in immigration, health, or labour market outcomes are an asset. Excellent written and oral command of English is required; knowledge of French or German is an asset.

You will be attached to the Swiss Forum for Migration and Population Studies at the University of Neuchâtel ( and will join a team in economics, sociology, and demography. An affiliation to the national centre of excellence NCCR on the move ( is possible and will open up exchange with other postdocs and researchers across the country.

Benefits: The salary is in accordance with the university guidelines ( There is a budget for conference participation, and we will support you develop your own research agenda.

Employer: The position is based at the University of Neuchâtel. The University of Neuchâtel is an equal opportunities employer. Qualified women and candidates with a migration history are encouraged to apply.

Submitting application: Applications (letter of intent, CV, names of two referees, a relevant research paper as a writing sample) should be submitted as a single PDF to (also for queries). The position is open until filled; for full consideration, apply by 15 June 2021.