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Sandra N. Morgenstern

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Work in progress

  • Gender differences in migration decision making – with Carlos Vargas-Silva
  • Human Trafficking / Labour exploitation in Tanzania – with Julia Kleinewiese
  • Diversity and social inequality: the impact of contact with individuals of marginalized groups on political preferences
  • Emotions as mediator for threat rhetoric on preferences for freedom versus security – with Felix Jäger
  • Democratic values among immigrants in Europe – with Marc Helbling and Fabian Gülzau
  • Cultural opinion clusters: Correlates and effects on affective residential attachment- with Daniel Auer, Denis Cohen, Stefan Jünger
  • Forecasting Migration Movements using Prediction Markets – with Oliver Strijbis

Peer-reviewed article publications

One European policy response to the so-called migration crisis is an accelerated implementation of information campaigns in potential origin countries. Whether and how these campaigns can influence decisions about irregular migration, however, remains under explored. I argue that information campaigns reduce intentions to migrate irregularly and expect the effects to be more substantial when anxiety-inducing messages are used. Based on a field experimental RCT study (N=1,500) of an actual European information campaign in Nigeria, I provide supportive evidence for this expectation: The information campaign reduced respondents’ intentions to migrate irregularly with a more decisive effect when using an anxiety-triggering campaign message.

While much research has investigated how objective pull factors in the destination countries affect migration movements, and how subjective push factors affect migration aspirations, we know little about the interrelationship between subjective and objective factors. This paper therefore examines how people's perceptions of their political, economic and social structural environment affect their migration aspirations and to what extent these perceptions are determined by the objective situation in a country. Accounting for individual perceptions is important because individuals may be affected by structural factors to different degrees, and their knowledge of the objective situation may vary. Perceptions may also be affected by individuals' norms and values as well as people's different expectations. This study is based on data from Round 7 of the Afrobarometer survey, fielded between 2016 and 2018 in 34 African countries. Our findings show that positive perceptions of the structural environment are related to lower migration aspirations and that this relationship is only partly dependent on the objective situation in a country.

In the year 2015, the summer of migration, or the so-called migration crisis, led to a high increase in irregular migration from the Great Middle East and West Africa to Europe. This tremendous change in immigration behaviour provoked a new urgency on the agendas of European governments. In a short amount of time, national governments and the European Union advanced their immigration- and border-related policies and started to engage largely in remote migration management, such as through information campaigns. The political idea behind a policy of information campaigns about migration is to raise awareness, combat prevailing misinformation, and influence migration behaviour in regions with high irregular immigration rates to Europe but assigned as ‘safe origin’. However, little is known about whether and how this mean of political communication works. To explain the influence of migration information campaigns on migration behaviour among the target audience, I connect and apply established theoretical concepts from related disciplines. More specifically, I combine prospect theory as a migration decision making model with dual process theories for information processing expectations. I argue that different moderating and mediating factors may enhance the direct effect magnitude of the respective information and strengthen its persistence. With the aim of revealing causality, I test these relations empirically in a series of randomised field experiments and an online panel survey experiment in Nigeria. Since young Nigerians are a typical case target group for this policy implementation, the studies are implemented in schools and universities in the capital city Abuja and in Benin City, a large city known for its migration hub. In the first of three papers (Paper I) I uncover that these migration information campaigns have a general influence on migration behaviour. Additionally, I generate first insights on one mechanism enhancing the impact of information on migration decision making: the emotions, such as anxiety, triggered in the audience. In Paper II, I investigate the mediating mechanisms further by comparing the effect of emotions with a more ethically tolerable one, the credibility of the sender of information. Both mediators show similar (positive) effects on awareness, but for re-telling behaviour, sender credibility seems to be crucial. Emotions and credibility show that they are not reinforcing each other’s effects, and hence one could compensate for the other. Paper III dives deeper into the mediating effect of sender credibility for different sender types, such as NGOs, governments, and social contacts, being either international or local. The direct outcomes of irregular migration intentions and their effect persistence vary with sender type. In conclusion, my dissertation makes at least two important contributions to the previous literature. First, I develop a theoretical model that connects approaches from related fields and applies them to the political science sub-field of migration. Second, I perform rigorous empirical tests in a real-life setting. The experimental evidence gives causal insights on the general effect of political migration information on migration behaviour and additionally reveals rare causal knowledge on the mechanisms activated. This evidence is valuable for the continuance and the advancement of the policy of migration information campaigns, but also for the broader literature applying the basic mechanism of attitude and behaviour change based on information. Examples may be media literature, (electoral) information campaign literature, or the recently increasing literature on combating misinformation

Articles about teaching

In my seminar sessions, I aim to stimulate discussions, whether about methodological approaches, theory building or ethical considerations. However, the different university backgrounds in one seminar lead to different levels of knowledge in, and thus a strong self-imposed imbalance in, seminar discussions. To counter this problem, I am applying one of the lessons of the post-pandemic period in my face-to-face seminar sessions - the ability to exclude parts from seminar sessions by using technological tools that allow students to learn at their own pace. I have produced short videos on different topics of 'advanced academic practice' that students watch and align in preparation for the seminar sessions so that we can start the discussion at the same level in the seminar session. In the name of Open Science, all videos are on the university website and an OER repository for free availability to teachers and students.


Articles about doing and supporting research