Governments across Europe are restricting labor market access for asylum seekers, with often detrimental consequences for the livelihood of refugees and the public finances of host societies. This raises the following questions: Are the benefits of restrictive immigrant policies political rather than economic, and do incumbent governments receive an electoral edge by implementing such policies? In this paper, we exploit a natural experiment in Germany, where, following a deterministic assignment rule, certain regions were exempted from a reform that liberalized labor market access for refugees. Using difference-in-difference and regression discontinuity designs, we find that the incumbent vote share sharply increases in regions with restrictive labor market access. Exploring different mechanisms, our results suggest that this effect is primarily driven by differential candidate entry: In regions with restrictive labor market access, fewer conservative and populist challengers are running for office. Our results suggest that not only do immigration inflows have direct electoral repercussions, but immigrant policies do also.
Although Europe has experienced unprecedented numbers of refugee arrivals since 2015, there exists almost no causal evidence regarding the impact of the refugee crisis on natives’ attitudes, policy preferences, or political engagement. We provide evidence from a natural experiment in the Aegean Sea, where Greek islands close to the Turkish coast experienced a sudden and massive increase in refugee arrivals while similar islands slightly farther away did not. Leveraging distance as an instrument for between-island variation in exposure to the refugee crisis allows us to obtain causal estimates of its impact. In our targeted survey of 2,070 islands residents, we ﬁnd that immediate exposure to large-scale refugee arrivals induces sizable and lasting increases in natives’ hostility toward refugee, immigrant and Muslim minorities; support for restrictive asylum and immigration policies; and political engagement to eﬀect such policies.
While far-right parties profit electorally from rising immigration, we know very little about how increases in immigration mobilize opposition outside the electoral arena. Using fine-grained, classified data from the Federal Criminal Office in Germany, we estimate the causal effect of a sizable increase in asylum-seekers in a community on the probability of xenophobic hate crimes. Exploiting county-level quota regimes governing the allocation of asylum-seekers in Germany, we find that when immigration levels rise nationally, an increase in asylum-seeker arrivals in a community causes an increase in xenophobic hate crimes. We also document that these crimes are directed against asylum-seekers and not other non-natives, which suggests that they are instrumental actions intended to dispel and deter asylum-seekers from local communities.