Research

My current research interests focus on: 1) Comparative migration policy research 2) Civic engagement and pro-social attitudes, and 3) Democracy and immigration society. Since a few years, my approach to research is predominantly quantitative comparative, 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 quantitative, but also qualitative, 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 (with Isabelle Stadelmann-Steffen) in Ethnic and Racial Studies, Comparative European Politics, the Swiss Political Science Review, the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, and as various book chapters. Extending the scope beyond Switzerland, one of my recent articles with Julian Bernauer (West European Politics) addresses the question whether consensual democracies are really kinder and gentler when it comes to represent immigrant interests. In this article, we use a new dataset on empirical democracies and data from the Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) for 30 European and North American countries.

 

Civic engagement and pro-social 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, Rationality and Society and Acta Sociologica (single- as well as co-authored articles together with Markus Freitag and Isabelle-Stadelmann-Steffen). Together with Markus Freitag, Kathrin Ackermann and Maya Ackermann, I worked on the Swiss Volunteering Monitor 2016, which was published in May 2016. Further research papers, for instance on online volunteering, are in preparation.

 

Democracy and immigration society

My most recent research project was carried out at the University of California, Berkeley (August 2015 to May 2016). 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) civic engagement? (2) Which role does public opinion play, meaning to which extent is a potential relationship between direct democracy and immigrant civic 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. The results will be published as articles.