Labour Economics

Volume 86, January 2024, 102467
Labour Economics

Becoming neighbors with refugees and voting for the far-right? The impact of refugee inflows at the small-scale level

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.labeco.2023.102467Get rights and content
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  • Analysis of refugee inflow into neighborhoods.

  • Refugee inflow not decisive for far-right support in all Germany.

  • Evidence in line with contact hypothesis in West Germany.

  • Different spatial scales lead to different effects.


We investigate the effect of the refugee inflow between 2014 and 2017 on the electoral support for far-right parties in the 2017 German federal election. Leveraging unique, fine-grained data, we differentiate between the impact of refugee inflow at two distinct geographic scales: the immediate neighborhood (1km x 1km) and the county level. To address potential endogeneity concerns, we employ past settlement patterns as instrumental variables. Our results reveal noteworthy variations across geographic scales and regions. We find that refugee inflows lead to an increase in far-right vote shares at the county level, while we observe a negative but statistically insignificant effect at the grid cell level. This negative neighborhood effect attains statistical significance in West Germany, particularly in urban counties, aligning with the contact hypothesis. We find no significant effect in rural areas, and a positive impact of the inflow rate at the county level in West Germany, suggesting a contrasting effect beyond the immediate local vicinity. Despite the fact that support for far-right parties is most pronounced in East Germany, our analysis does not yield robust evidence of a statistically significant relationship in this region.

JEL classification



Voting behavior
Neighborhood characteristics

Data availability

Data used in the article are available through the FDZ Ruhr. The voting data will become a data set also managed by the FDZ Ruhr.

Cited by (0)

We thank Thomas K. Bauer, Julia Bredtmann, Fabian Dehos, Albrecht Glitz, Andreas Lichter, two anonymous referees and the editor Hillel Rapoport as well as seminar participants at the DICE Düsseldorf, RWI Essen, University Pompeu Fabra, 11th European Meeting of the Urban Economics Association, and Verein für Socialpolitik for helpful comments and suggestions. Furthermore, we thank Alper Demirci, Jan Dohmann, Lisa Duletzki, Inga Heinze, Niklas Hübner, Filip Malkowski, Michael Schweitzer, and Thorben Wiebe for research assistance. Data collection would not have been possible without the students involved. This work was supported through the Leibniz Competition by the Leibniz Association (K165/2018/Segregation and regional mobility).