Research

My current research interests focus on: 1) Migration policy analysis 2) Civic engagement and intergroup attitudes, and 3) Democracy and immigration society. Since a few years, my approach to research is predominantly quantitative, using individual as well as aggregate or contextual data. My research aims at a better understanding of the causal mechanisms behind political and social processes, which is why I am very interested in innovative research methods.

Comparative migration policy research

In my PhD project (2008 to 2012), I examined subnational variations of immigrant integration policy in Switzerland. Within this project, I collected data on integration policy outputs in the 26 Swiss cantons to analyze the determinants and consequences of this astonishing subnational policy variety on immigrant integration. The results of my PhD research, as well as additional research related to this project were published in an award-winning book, as single- and co-authored articles  in Ethnic and Racial Studies (2012), Comparative European Politics (2013), the Swiss Political Science Review (2011, 2015), the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (2014), Political Studies (2017), and as various book chapters. Extending the scope beyond Switzerland, my article with Julian Bernauer (West European Politics, 2016) addresses the question whether consensual democracies are really kinder and gentler when it comes to represent immigrant interests across 30 European and North American countries.

In an NCCR on the move project,  we scrutinized regional immigrant integration policies in a global comparative manner. In this international collaboration, we studied the regional dynamics of integration regulation in Germany, Italy, Spain, Great Britain, Switzerland, Belgium, the US, and Canada  (2017-2019). The results were published in a Special Issue in Regional Studies (2020) that I guest edited with Christina Zuber (University of Konstanz) and Verena Wisthaler (EURAC Bozen). My contribution with Alexandra Filindra to this issue shows how changing integration policy contexts in US states affect governor approval and voter turnout not just among immigrants, but via spillover effects also their children and co-ethnic groups (Regional Studies, 2020).

Civic engagement and intergroup attitudes

Between 2012 and 2015, I was engaged in the project management of the Swiss Volunteering Survey  at the Chair of Political Sociology at Berne University. Together with the scientific project leader Markus Freitag, I organized, planned and supervised the third Swiss Volunteering Survey (telephone and online, more than 5700 respondents) in Switzerland, taking place in 2014. My research in this area focuses on questions such as why do certain social groups (e.g. immigrants or young adults) engage less in the civic realm than others? How do pro-social norms (e.g. reciprocity) affect pro-social behavior? What is the relevance and nature of new forms of civic engagement such as online volunteering? Results of this research appeared in Comparative European Politics (2013), Rationality and Society (2014) and Acta Sociologica (2015). Together with Markus Freitag, Kathrin Ackermann and Maya Ackermann, I worked on the Swiss Volunteering Monitor 2016, which was published in May 2016. The latest publication co-authored with Kathrin Ackermann scrutinizes the profiles of online versus offline volunteers and the potential of online volunteering to overcome unequal participation (New Media and Society, 2018).

We continue to examine social exchange and support offline as compared to online in a currently ongoing interdisciplinary NCCR on the move research project. Together with Katrin Sontag, Jinhee Kim (University of Basel), Matthieu Vétois and Juan Manuel Falomir Pichastor (University of Geneva), we analyse via surveys and survey experiments, whether geographically mobile individuals are more at ease with the (forced) digitalization of social exchange and support than non-mobile individuals. 

In our currently ongoing NCCR on the move project (together with Eva Green, University of Lausanne, and Juan-Manuel Falomir Pichastor, University of Geneva), we investigate societal norms as predictors of behavior and attitudes regarding migration among national majorities and immigrants (2018-2022). In this context, we explore bureaucratic discrimination against mobile EU citizens, together with our international consortium (Eva Thomann and Oliver James, University of Exeter, Carolin Rapp, University of Copenhagen, Christian Adam, LMU Munich). We analyse whether bureaucrats are different from the general population, and how bureaucratic discrimination can be overcome, using survey experiments among bureaucrats and the larger population in Germany (Adam et al. Journal of European Public Policy, 2021). Follow-up survey experiments during the first Covid-19 confinement in April 2020, and one year later, in April 2021, allow us further to assess the short- and long-term effects of this pandemic on discrimination (Fernández-i-Marín et al., under review). 

Democracy and immigration

From August 2015 to May 2016, I was working on a research project on direct democracy and immigrant political engagement as a visiting postdoc at the University of California, Berkeley. The project was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (advanced postdoc mobility grant) and investigated how the democratic system (especially direct democracy, i.e. referendums) affects immigrants’ political behavior. It adressed the following questions : (1) How does direct democracy affect immigrants’ (national and non-national) political engagement? (2) Which role does public opinion play, meaning to which extent is a potential relationship between direct democracy and immigrant political engagement moderated by immigrant-skeptic attitudes and xenophobia? (3) Is such a relationship context-dependent or not? To answer these questions empirically, I focused on direct democracy and first and second generation immigrant voting across the 50 US states (Comparative Migration Studies, 2021).

In our currently ongoing NCCR on the move project Beyza Buyuker, Alexandra Filindra (University of Illinois), Eva Green and I examine how xenophobia, racism, and political identification relate to the erosion or defense of democratic norms. To analyze this relationship, we are currently conducting survey experiments in the US, Switzerland and Turkey.