How to successfully integrate refugees is an important task for governments, for which efficient policy solutions are in high demand. While there is a fairly large literature on the efficiency of various labor market and education policies, we know much less about the importance of initial settlement locations. Since initial location is decided by policy and potentially influences the life trajectory of the refugees and their children, credible evidence from a Norwegian context has direct policy relevance. On a more general level, analyzing impacts of refugee placement policies will generate knowledge on neighborhood effects which will be relevant for policies on e.g., where to invest in municipal housing.
The substantive questions we aim to address in the present project are important and policy relevant, and the empirical and theoretical knowledge gaps loom large. The project will enable us to answer whether the initial placement of refugees affects labor market outcomes, integration, trust, mental health, and gender attitudes. By studying a range of outcomes, we cover dimensions of social integration beyond employment and earnings. A pressing question we address is whether economic and social integration go hand in hand, an assumption underlying the Norwegian integration policy.
The project focuses mostly on UNHCR resettlement refugees. As this group is placed in a neighborhood before arriving to Norway, placement is less related to other confounding determinants of integration and we expect the findings to be general enough to have important policy implications. First of all, quota refugees now constitute the main bulk of refugees to Norway as asylum seeking has dropped dramatically in recent years. Second, the results may be generalized to other refugees. Third, some of the evidence is likely generalizable to the full population.
The project outlines an ambitious and bold research agenda, addressing empirical challenges related to the study of refugee integration and neighborhood effects. The main objective is to identify causal effects of neighbourhoods on labor market outcomes, social integration, education, trust, mental health, and attitudes. Causal evidence is hard to establish since people typically self-select into areas of residence. Therefore, the project focuses mostly on UNHCR resettlement refugees (which we call quota refugees). As this group are placed in a neighborhood before arriving to Norway, placement is unrelated to potential confounders, something we have also confirmed in previous research.
The project is innovative as we can combine the natural experiment of refugee placement to neighborhoods with both register data and a large survey data collection to credibly identify effects and mechanisms. The project will enable us to answer whether the initial placement of refugees affects a wide set of outcomes. By studying a range of outcomes, we cover dimensions of social integration beyond employment and earnings.
The project is policy relevant. How to successfully integrate refugees is an important task for governments, for which efficient policy solutions are in high demand. Since initial location is decided by policy, credible evidence from a Norwegian context has direct policy relevance. We also believe that our results are relevant for other groups and for neighborhood effects more generally.
The project is interdisciplinary and draws on theories from different fields of the social sciences. The ultimate goal is to push the research frontiers of political science and economics. The project team consists of top national and world leading international scholars from these disciplines and the project leader actively publishes well in both disciplines. We expect that the project will produce top publications.