The 2015 Refugee Crisis in Germany: Concerns About Immigration and Populism

36 Pages Posted: 10 May 2018

Date Written: February 2018


This paper investigates the effect of the refugee crisis, and the related government’s asylum policy, on concerns about immigration of the German population. Exploiting exogenous variation in survey interview timing of the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), I employ a difference-in-differences strategy to estimate the short-term causal effect of the refugee crisis on concerns about immigration. The estimated effect is substantial, representing an increase in concerns of around 22%, compared to the pre-refugee crisis baseline level. Interestingly, I find that this increase was twice as large for East Germans, compared to West Germans. In a second section, I show concerns about immigration are positively correlated with political support for the relatively new, right-wing populist party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). However, using the variability in concerns generated by the refugee crisis, I find no evidence of a causal effect of concerns on political preferences in the short term.

Keywords: concerns about immigration, refugee crisis, Germany, AfD, populism, political preferences

JEL Classification: F22, J61, D72, H12

Suggested Citation

Sola, Alessandro, The 2015 Refugee Crisis in Germany: Concerns About Immigration and Populism (February 2018). SOEPpaper No. 966, Available at SSRN: or

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics