Can a digital tool foster immigrants’ integration?
One potential reason for immigrants’ poor integration outcomes is a lack of information about local integration support programs, language courses, job offers and other relevant local information. This can lead to missed job opportunities and under-usage of public and private services by immigrants. For example, in Germany, according to the Socio-Economic Panel survey, almost 40 percent of recently arrived migrants re-port to require help with the job-search. Between 20 and 25 percent of respondents need information about German courses, recognition of their education degrees, and housing issues. At the same time, only about five percent of the respondents are aware of advice and counselling services for migrants.
This pilot evaluates the feasibility of a randomised controlled trial (RCT) that aims at studying the role of high-quality local information for improving migrants’ economic and social outcomes in Germany. The information is provided by the app Integreat, developed by the NGO Tür an Tür - Digitalfabrik in collaboration with German municipalities. The project targets immigrants who have arrived in Germany since 2015 and who reside in municipalities where the app Integreat is available. The research team is interested in the short- and long-run effects of better information provision on economic and social integration of immigrants, as well as in heterogeneous effects by gender, education, and country of origin. They also intend to study how information can be provided most effectively (e.g. through additional notifications and personalised messages) to encourage behaviour that leads to better integration outcomes.
The experimental design is the following. First, the team will send a letter to a sample of the target population to invite them to an incentivised online survey about immigrants’ integration. Second, among the respondents who have completed the survey, they will randomly select a group of participants (the treatment group), to whom they will provide information about the existence and usefulness of the Integreat app and a group of non-participants (the control group) that will not receive any information about the app. Third, by tracking the use of the app by the treatment group, they will be able to study in detail how immigrants acquire information with this digital tool. Fourth, the team will follow up with the two groups through several incentivized online or WhatsApp surveys to measure integration outcomes over time. Finally, they will attempt to merge the sample with administrative employment data to measure labour market outcomes.