National Policies, Local Politics, and Citizenship Acquisition: Field Experiments with Elected Officials in Germany

Local politicians can play an important role in promoting citizenship, but existing research suggests that helpfulness varies considerably across local councils. The authors of this article conduct two correspondence studies with local elected officials in Germany to examine what causes politicians to respond to putative immigrants’ email requests for help in the naturalization process. They find no evidence that features that are salient in national debates and public opinion predict responsiveness. Specifically, signals of national identification with Germany play no role. Yet, the authors document a reversed national penalty: Politicians are fifty percent more likely to assist Turks, a low-status group, than Canadians, a high status-group. When probing what causes higher responsiveness to Turks, the authors show that electoral incentives are a more plausible explanation than is the desire to address Turks’ integration problems. This study indicates that research on citizenship and discrimination needs to consider disconnects between public perceptions, national debates, and local political processes.

Jeyhun Alizade, Rafaela M. Dancygier, Ruth K. Ditlmann (eds.), National Policies, Local Politics, and Citizenship Acquisition: Field Experiments with Elected Officials in Germany, available at SSRN, 2018