Strangers in hostile lands: Exposure to refugees and right-wing support. 2020. Comparative Political Studies, First View (with D. Baldassarri and J. Gereke). Article. Replication data.
Media coverage: Tagesspiegel, Zeit Online, taz.

Does local exposure to refugees affect right-wing support and anti-immigrant sentiments? This paper studies the allocation of refugees to the rural hinterlands of Eastern Germany during the refugee crisis of 2015. Similar to non-urban regions elsewhere, the area has seen a major shift towards the political right, despite minimal previous exposure to foreigners. We draw on electoral records and original data collected among 1,320 German citizens from 236 municipalities, half of which received refugees. Two conditions allow for causal identification: a policy allocating refugees following strict administrative rules, and a matching procedure rendering treated and control municipalities statistically indistinguishable. Our survey and behavioral measures confirm the presence of widespread anti-immigrant sentiments, but these are entirely unaffected by the presence of refugees in respondents' hometowns. If anything, local exposure to refugees served as a `reality check', pulling both right- and left-leaning individuals more towards the center.

Voter Mobilization in the Echo Chamber: Broadband Internet and the Rise of Populism in Europe. 2020. European Journal of Political Research, 59(4), 752–773 (with D. Morisi). Article. Replication data.
Media coverage: Der Spiegel, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Tagesspiegel, NIUS.

Can the diffusion of broadband internet help explain the recent success of populist parties in Europe? Populists cultivate an anti-elitist communication style, which, they claim, directly connects them with ordinary people. The internet therefore appears to be the perfect tool for populist leaders. In this study, we show that this notion holds up to rigorous empirical testing. Building on survey data from Italy and Germany, we find a positive correlation at the individual level between use of the internet as the main source of political information and voting for populist parties, but not for other mainstream parties. We then demonstrate that this relationship is causal with an instrumental variable strategy, instrumenting internet use with broadband coverage at the municipality level. Our findings suggest that part of the rise of populism can be attributed to the effect of online tools and communication strategies made possible by the proliferation of broadband access.

Ethnic Riots and Prosocial Behavior. 2019. American Political Science Review, 113(4), 1029–1044 (with A. Hager and K. Krakowski). Article. Replication data.
Featured on: Political Science Now.

Do ethnic riots affect prosocial behavior? A common view among scholars of ethnic violence is that riots increase cooperation within the warring groups, while cooperation across groups is reduced. We revisit this hypothesis by studying the aftermath of the 2010 Osh riot in Kyrgyzstan, which saw Kyrgyz from outside the city kill over 400 Uzbeks. We implement a representative survey, which includes unobtrusive experimental measures of prosocial behavior. Our causal identification strategy exploits variation in the distance of neighborhoods to armored military vehicles, which were instrumental in orchestrating the riot. We find that victimized neighborhoods show substantially lower levels of prosocial behavior. Importantly, we demonstrate that the reduction is similarly stark both within and across groups. Using qualitative interviews, we parse out two mechanisms that help explain the surprising reduction in ingroup prosociality: Victimized Uzbeks felt abandoned by their coethnics, and variation in victimization created a feeling of suspicion.

Does Poverty Undermine Cooperation in Multiethnic Settings? Evidence from a Cooperative Investment Experiment. 2019. Journal of Experimental Political Science (with D. Baldassarri and J. Gereke). Manuscript. Link to article. Replication data.

What undermines cooperation in ethnically diverse communities? Scholars have focused on factors that explain the lack of inter-ethnic cooperation, such as prejudice or the difficulty to communicate and sanction across group boundaries. We direct attention to the fact that diverse communities are also often poor, and ask whether poverty, rather than diversity, reduces cooperation. We developed a strategic cooperation game where we vary the income and racial identity of the interaction partner. We find that beliefs about how poor people behave have clear detrimental effects on cooperation: cooperation is lower when people are paired with low-income partners, and the effect is particularly strong when low-income people interact among themselves. We observe additional discrimination along racial lines when the interaction partner is poor. These findings imply that poverty and rising inequality may be a serious threat to social cohesion, especially under conditions of high socio-economic segregation.

Ethnic Diversity, Poverty and Social Trust in Germany. 2018. PLOS One (with J. Gereke and D. Baldassarri).

Scholars have concluded that ethnic diversity has negative consequences for social trust. However, recent research has called into question whether ethnic diversity per se has detrimental effects, or whether lower levels of trust in diverse communities simply reflect a higher concentration of less trusting groups, such as poor people, minorities, or immigrants. Drawing upon a nationally representative sample of the German population (GSOEP), we make two contributions to this debate. First, we examine how ethnic diversity at the neighborhood level–specifically the proportion of immigrants in the neighborhood–is linked to social trust focusing on the compositional effect of poverty. Second, in contrast to the majority of current research on ethnic diversity, we use a behavioral measure of trust in combination with fine-grained (zip-code level) contextual measures of ethnic composition and poverty. Furthermore, we are also able to compare the behavioral measure to a standard attitudinal trust question. We find that household poverty partially accounts for lower levels of trust, and that after controlling for income, German and non-German respondents are equally trusting. However, being surrounded by neighbors with immigrant background is also associated with lower levels of social trust.

Threat and Parochialism in Intergroup Relations. 2017. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 284 (1865):20171560.
Link to article. Manuscript. Replication data.
Media coverage: Science Magazine.

Competition between groups is widely considered to foster cooperation within groups. Evidence from lab experiments hints at the existence of a proximate mechanism by which humans increase their level of support for their ingroup when faced with an external threat. Further work suggests that ingroup support should go along with aggressive behaviour towards the outgroup, although these theories are at odds with others that see high investments in outgroup relations as important means of stabilising inter-group relations. Surprisingly few of these arguments have been tested in the field, however, and existing studies are also limited by the lack of a direct measure of threat perception and aggressive behaviour. This study presents lab-in-the-field results from a rural context where exposure to an ethnic outgroup varies between villages. This context makes it possible to capture levels of threat perception, aggressive behaviour and cooperation without having to induce intergroup competition artificially in the lab. All concepts are measured behaviourally. Ingroup and outgroup cooperation was measured with a standard public goods game, and a novel experimental protocol was developed that measures both perceived threat and aggressive behaviour: the threat game. The results show that levels of perceived threat, ingroup cooperation and aggressive behaviour are higher in regions more strongly exposed to ethnic outsiders. However, exposed regions also show high levels of outgroup cooperation and a concomitant lack of elevated ingroup bias. This pattern is explained by theorising that communities show parochial altruism when faced with an ethnic outgroup, but balance aggressive behaviour with cooperative offers to diffuse tensions and to keep open channels of mutually beneficial exchange.

Second-Order Ethnic Diversity: The Spatial Pattern of Diversity, Competition and Cooperation in Africa. 2017. Political Geography 59 (July): 103–16. Link to article. Manuscript.

Ethnic diversity has been linked to important social outcomes such as economic underperformance and civil war, yet its study is still hampered by conceptual difficulties and imprecise measurement. In this paper, a modified understanding of ethnic diversity is developed. Ethnic diversity is disaggregated into two components—first- and second-order ethnic diversity—which have opposing consequences for collective outcomes. While first-order ethnic diversity—the diversity of a local community—is theorized to undermine cooperation, second-order ethnic diversity—the ethnic diversity of the hinterland of a community—is theorized to induce ethnic competition, thereby reinforcing cooperation. Relating data from over 100,000 individuals interviewed at 2,942 locations in 33 African countries to novel subnational indicators of first- and second-order ethno-linguistic diversity, the theory is tested and its basic tenets confirmed. In a next step, I show that it is indeed ethnic competition that accounts for the positive association between second-order diversity and increased cooperation: second-order ethnic diversity is a much better predictor of cooperation in regions where contemporary or historical factors have exacerbated interethnic tensions. The paper sheds new light on the debate on the consequences of ethnic diversity for cooperation and contributes to our understanding of the origins of the global ‘geography of social capital’.

The Redistributive Impact of Hypocrisy in International Taxation. 2017. Regulation & Governance, 12(3), 353–370. (with L. Hakelberg). Link to article.

Why do tax havens, whose attractiveness for foreign capital depends on financial secrecy, agree to automatically report account data to foreign governments? From a contractualist perspective, their cooperation should be motivated by the expectation of joint gains. Prior to agreeing, however, tax havens had expected outflows of foreign capital and reductions in economic activity as likely outcomes. We show that the U.S. imposed automatic information exchange on these countries without itself participating. The result is a strongly redistributive regime that worsens the economic situation of tax havens. By means of a difference-in-differences analysis, we ascertain a substantial and statistically significant negative effect of a U.S. sanctions threat on the value of assets held by foreigners in tax havens relative to non-havens. The effect becomes stronger when the U.S. is included in the non-haven group. The analysis confirms the U.S.’s ability to redistribute financial wealth internationally through organized hypocrisy.

Cross-Cultural Regularities in the Cognitive Architecture of Pride. 2017. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(8), 1874–1879 (with D. Sznycer, Al-Shawaf, L., Bereby-Meyer, Y., Curry, O. S., De Smet, D., Ermer, E., Kim, S., Kim, S., Li, N. P., Lopez Seal, M. F., McClung, J., O, J., Ohtsubo, Y., Quillien, T., Sell, A., van Leeuwen, F., Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J.). Link to article.

Pride occurs in every known culture, appears early in development, is reliably triggered by achievements and formidability, and causes a characteristic display that is recognized everywhere. Here, we evaluate the theory that pride evolved to guide decisions relevant to pursuing actions that enhance valuation and respect for a person in the minds of others. By hypothesis, pride is a neurocomputational program tailored by selection to orchestrate cognition and behavior in the service of: (i) motivating the cost-effective pursuit of courses of action that would increase others’ valuations and respect of the individual, (ii) motivating the advertisement of acts or characteristics whose recognition by others would lead them to enhance their evaluations of the individual, and (iii) mobilizing the individual to take advantage of the resulting enhanced social landscape. To modulate how much to invest in actions that might lead to enhanced evaluations by others, the pride system must forecast the magnitude of the evaluations the action would evoke in the audience and calibrate its activation proportionally. We tested this prediction in 16 countries across 4 continents (n = 2,085), for 25 acts and traits. As predicted, the pride intensity for a given act or trait closely tracks the valuations of audiences, local (mean r = +0.82) and foreign (mean r = +0.75). This relationship is specific to pride and does not generalize to other positive emotions that coactivate with pride but lack its audience-recalibrating function.

Lines Across the Desert: Mobile Phone Use and Mobility in the Context of trans-Saharan Migration. 2012. Information Technology for Development 18, no. 2: 126–144. Article.

In West and Northern Africa, mobile phone coverage has been expanding in parallel to increased attempts by Africans to migrate overland to Europe. This paper explores possible links between the two phenomena, looking specifically into the role of mobile phones in trans-Saharan migration. It provides a first detailed description of the telecommunication processes underlying contemporary trans-Saharan migration. An analytical framework is presented that helps to explain how mobile phones facilitate migration by interacting with the social and spatial factors shaping migrants’ mobility. By drawing on this framework and fieldwork conducted among Congolese migrants in Morocco, it is shown that the expansion of the communication infrastructure is, on the one hand, only one of several factors that have turned the region into a more “transitable” space. On the other hand, the use of mobile phones is demonstrated to be central to the migration process: migrants draw on the unprecedented accessibility of contacts equipped with mobile phones to tie together novel, geographically expansive networks. Phones are also shown to be used by migrants’ ‘helpers’ for the purpose of internal coordination.