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Here researchers of the ISS report regularly on their latest results.

February 2019

There is already extensive research showing the harmful effects of strained or even conflicted social relationships on mental and physical health. Positive relationships in turn protect against mental illness, also because they reduce perceived stress. So far, it has hardly been investigated to what extent negative relationships have an effect on uninvolved third parties. An example is when a (third) person herself has good relationships with two family members while they are arguing with one another.
A forthcoming study by ISS researcher Lea Ellwardt and her colleagues from the US and the Netherlands investigated the question as to whether people suffer from stress when they observe conflicts between their social contacts – even if they themselves have no conflicts with them. For this purpose, the researchers analyzed longitudinal data from Chicago (CHASRS). At annual intervals, the study participants were asked five times about their social contacts and their stress levels. They were also able to indicate whether their contacts get along with one another or not.
The analysis showed a light tendency for participants to report lower stress when their social contacts got along well, meaning relationships were positive. These results show that not only directly involved individuals, but also surrounding relatives or acquaintances potentially suffer from interpersonal tensions, or benefit from their positive relationships. Thus, a harmonious immediate social environment can provide a protective effect against stress and thereby ultimately yield benefits for mental health.


January 2019

Whereas a substantial literature suggests a socioeconomic gradient in health as well as gender inequalities in health, little is known yet about whether the effect of socioeconomic status on health differs by gender. A yet unpublished study by ISS researcher Dina Maskileyson and her colleague Philipp Lersch (HU Berlin & DIW Berlin) focuses on the intersection of economic inequality and gender in the production of health. The authors argue for a more systematic examination of the interaction between personal and household economic resources and gender in the social patterning of health within couples. Specifically, they ask how personal economic resources (i.e. income and wealth) and partners’ economic resources are associated with health for women and men in Germany.
An analysis of longitudinal data from three waves of the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) revealed that personal economic resources have a positive impact on health (and that the wealth effect is largely independent from income). Moreover, while partner’s wealth is equally important for both genders, partner’s income affects women’s health only. The results emphasize the importance of employing an integrated approach for the analysis of gendered health inequalities, simultaneously considering personal, partner’s, and household economic resources, in order to more fully understand the social determinants of health.


December 2018

In the past, different studies have come to the result that in Germany, children with an immigrant background have lower achievements than children without migration background. Less than 25 per cent of students of second-generation Turkish background finish their Abitur (secondary education degree allowing university entrance) in Germany. For children without a history of immigration, this rate is at over 40 per cent. Previous research has tended to focus on the ethnic background, educational level and socio-economic status of the parents.

In a recent study, ISS researcher Sarah Carol and Benjamin Schulz (WZB) instead focused on the significance of religiosity for school achievement and as a motor of educational mobility. They used data collected by the German National Education Panel Study (NEPS) to test their hypotheses regarding Muslim and Christian children with a migration background. As indicators for educational achievement, the study relied mostly on the results of math tests. The degree of religiosity and belonging to a religious community was gauged using a questionnaire.

The study shows that religiosity does not hinder educational success per se. In the case of Christian as well as Muslim pupils, under certain circumstances religiosity does not stand in the way of good school performance. However, religiosity is more relevant for the educational success of Muslim children. For Christian children, religiosity hardly plays any role. As far as the correlation between engagement in an Islamic community and school performance is concerned, the authors had to consider an additional factor: If students live in non-segregated neighbourhoods, there is a positive correlation between religious involvement and math competence.  If, however, they live in segregated neighbourhoods, these children no longer have this advantage. In that case, religious involvement can even be an obstacle to school success.

High frequency of prayer also goes hand in hand with better school performance. Regular praying indicates self-discipline and intrinsic motivation. Both are also key factors for success in school. But this does not apply to Muslim pupils who regard themselves as highly religious, and to those who do not regularly practice their religion. This group of pupils is more likely to leave school early without completing secondary education (earning only a Hauptschule degree) or to drop out. To summarize, subjective religiosity can be an obstacle to educational success, but other facets of Muslim religiosity do not necessarily hamper pupils’ school achievements.


November 2018

In 2015, over 1 million asylum seekers came to Germany, the single largest intake by any European country since World War II. Germany proved an attractive destination because of its robust labor market, but also because of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s unilateral suspension of European Union rules that require states to send refugees back to their country of entry (Dublin Convention). This open door was initially supported by an explicit welcome culture ("We can do it"). At the same time, there are signs of increasing xenophobia, such as the rallies of PEGIDA and the popularity and electoral success of the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD). In addition, violence against refugees and Muslims in the wake of the so-called refugee crisis increased sharply. These attacks occur with significant spatial clustering which points to a critical role of regional and local factors.

In a study, ISS researcher Conrad Ziller (together with Sara Goodman of UC Irvine, USA) investigates the extent to which local government efficiency influences violence against immigrants. The argument states that efficient administrations, on the one hand, are better able to cope with the integration of immigrants and, on the other hand, mitigate political deprivation of citizens. Political deprivation refers to the perception that people have no influence on politics and that politicians and public officials are not sufficiently responsive to citizens’ concerns and needs—motives that were quite salient during the refugee crisis and are related to frustration, negative sentiments toward outgroups and even violence.

The empirical analysis uses data on violent attacks on refugees in Germany in 2015, which are available for all 402 German districts. Local government efficiency was measured using a novel indicator that relates expenditures of municipalities with specific characteristics about service provision, such as accessibility of public transport, schools, and doctors. The results show a robust negative correlation between local government efficiency and violence, which could also be confirmed in another empirical study using corresponding data from the Netherlands. By improving the efficiency of the public services local governments provide, they not only improve the quality of cities and communities (and thus the satisfaction of their residents), but also the native-immigrant relations.


October 2018

In Germany, we observe an increasing complexity of partnership biographies. More and more people enter multiple co-residential unions in their lifetime, while no longer being confined to marriage as the type of union they choose. Knowledge on the prevalence, stability and routes of exit from serial cohabitation in the German context is seriously limited. In a new study, ISS researcher Nicole Hiekel and her colleague Barbara Fulda analyzed relationship biographies of about 2,500 women and men aged 35-45 to close this gap in the literature.

The authors examined, first, the number of unmarried cohabiting relationships they had entered up to this age. Their results reveal that in the cohort studied, so-called serial cohabitation, namely the formation and dissolution of more than one unmarried partnership, is a relatively rare phenomenon. 14 out of 100 men and women report to have lived with two unmarried partners under the same roof, while 3 out of 100 report to have experienced more than two cohabitation episodes. The latter named group belonged to the minority of the sample that had never entered a first marriage by the time the survey was taken.

In a second step, they compared the likelihood of experiencing a marriage or separation from an unmarried partner. The results imply that about 90 percent of women and men in a cohabiting union of first and second order either experience a marriage or separation within 5 years since the start of their relationship. The likelihood to get married to a first or a second cohabiting partner is twice as high as to dissolve the relationship. In cohabiting unions of higher order marriage is yet less likely, while the risk of separation is comparably high to that of cohabiting unions of lower order.

This is the first study on complex partnership biographies in Germany. It shows that for the birth cohort studied, the increasing popularity of unmarried cohabitation and the rise in partnership instability did not imply a loss of importance of marriage.

September, 2018

Job-related further training is often recommended to employees who want to develop professionally. This is illustrated, for example, by the Federal Ministry of Education’s programme "Aufstieg durch Bildung [Advancement through Education]". A study by ISS researcher Christian Ebner and Martin Ehlert (Social Science Research Center Berlin) has now examined whether individual participation in further training has a positive effect on the professional careers of employed persons in Germany.

The effects of so-called "non-formal" further training activities were analyzed. These activities include the many training courses, which are usually relatively short and do not lead to recognised educational qualifications. This includes, for example, software or language courses, presentation training and much more. Non-formal further training makes up the majority of employees’ learning activities. While there are clear indications of career improvements with regards to the much rarer formal further training (e.g. a “Meister” degree following an apprenticeship), the findings on the topic of non-formal further training are anything but clear.

Possible career mobility due to non-formal further training was examined by analyzing employees’ changes of occupation, firm changes, improvements and deterioration in the income hierarchy as well as becoming labour market inactive (e.g. unemployment). The empirical analyses were based on data from the National Education Panel (NEPS). The NEPS addresses educational processes, competencies and returns over the entire life span. The starting cohort 6 analysed here is a sample of the cohorts born 1944-1986 in Germany. The authors use the seven panel waves of 2009-2016, as detailed information on non-formal training courses is available here.

The results show that further training courses do not function as a stepping stone. Rather, it became apparent that employed persons who participate in further training courses tend to remain in their jobs. Participation in further training thus stabilizes employment careers. This means that non-formal further training has the function of a "safety net" and counteracts downward mobility and labour market inactivity. However, as a result of non-formal further training, there are also fewer career advancements, fewer company and fewer career changes.

Juli, 2018

Seit der Jahrtausendwende wurden über 2.400 Genossenschaften neu gegründet, so dass heute fast 8.000 Unternehmen in der Rechtsform der Genossenschaften in Deutschland existieren. Trotzdem hat sich die Gesamtzahl der Genossenschaften seit 1970 nahezu halbiert, während sich gleichzeitig die Anzahl der Mitgliedschaften fast verdoppelt hat. Dieser Gesamtrückgang der Unternehmensanzahl trotz der vielen Neugründungen ist keineswegs Insolvenzen geschuldet – im Gegenteil gelten die Genossenschaften zu Recht als besonders insolvenzsicher. Insbesondere Fusionen im kreditgenossenschaftlichen Bereich haben vielfach zu vergleichsweise großen genossenschaftlichen Unternehmen geführt. Trotzdem gilt dort wie auch im gesamten Genossenschaftssektor weiterhin die regionale Verankerung und Nähe zu Mitgliedern und Kunden als Teil der Marke.

Die Neugründungen seit der Jahrtausendwende stärken den Genossenschaftssektor. Interessanterweise wählten weitaus die meisten Genossenschaftsgründer diese Rechtsform, um neue Geschäftsmodelle und -bereiche zu besetzen. Die traditionell mit Genossenschaften besetzten Wirtschaftszweige wie die Kreditwirtschaft, die Landwirtschaft, der Handel, das Handwerk oder das Wohnen spielen bei den Neugründungen eher eine untergeordnete Rolle. Die meisten Neugründungen sind bei den Energiegenossenschaften zu finden, aber auch Ärzte- und Sozialgenossenschaften sowie weitere gemeinwesenorientierte Genossenschaften stoßen in neue genossenschaftliche Geschäftsgebiete vor.

Dieser für Genossenschaften so bezeichnete Neugründungsboom war 2014 Anlass für eine Studie zu den Potenzialen und Hemmnissen der unternehmerischen Tätigkeit in der Rechtsform der Genossenschaft, die von den ISS-Forschern Johannes Blome Drees, Philipp Degens und Clemens Schimmele zusammen mit Mitarbeitern der Unternehmensberatung Kienbaum durchgeführt wurde. Zu prüfen war u.a., ob die 2006 durchgeführte Genossenschaftsrechtsnovelle, die viele Gründungserleichterungen für kleine Initiativen vorsieht, tatsächlich zur Gründung neuer Genossenschaften führte. Die Studie konnte belegen, dass die neuen Rechtsvorschriften nicht für alle kooperativ angelegten Projekte einen geeigneten Rechtsrahmen vorgeben. Im Ergebnis wurde das Genossenschaftsgesetz weiter novelliert.

Kennzeichen vieler Neugründungen ist häufig ein sehr hohes zivilgesellschaftliches Engagement der Mitglieder, um die Ziele ihres gemeinschaftlichen Projektes zu erreichen. Geschätzt wird an Genossenschaften ihre bedarfswirtschaftliche Ausrichtung – es wird nicht für einen anonymen Markt produziert, sondern orientiert am Bedarf der Mitglieder – sowie die personenbezogene Demokratie. Hinzu kommt die im Genossenschaftsmitglied angelegte Identität der Eigentümer mit den Kunden, Lieferanten oder im Fall der Produktivgenossenschaften mit den Arbeitnehmern. Damit entsprechen Genossenschaften in einem zentralen Aspekt dem, was heute unter Begriffen wie Prosuming, kollaborativer Konsum oder Ko-Produktion den Wandel der Verbraucherrolle kennzeichnet. Bewährte Beispiele für diese Phänomene findet man in der Tradition der Konsum- oder Erzeuger-Verbraucher-Genossenschaften, neu hinzu kommen Formen wie die Solidarische Landwirtschaft oder besondere Wohnprojekte, zum Teil mit Möglichkeiten des gemeinsamen Arbeitens. Digitale Plattformen in genossenschaftlicher Hand könnten dafür sorgen, dass die Erträge der Plattformbetreiber den Nutzern zugutekommen. Anders als bei den sich in den letzten Jahren etablierenden großen Plattformen des Teilen (Uber oder Airbnb) verbleiben bei genossenschaftlichen Unternehmen die Erträge im genossenschaftlichen Unternehmen oder werden an die Mitglieder und damit an die Nutzer ausgeschüttet.


June 2018

Access to housing is known to play a crucial role for the integration and participation of immigrants, not only since the current refugee crisis. Ethnic discrimination on the housing market is therefore an important form of disadvantage. Empirical proof is often difficult, however, as diverse arguments can be brought forward to justify why a particular person without migration background was preferred. For this reason, researchers have turned to so-called audit studies which are an experimental method to provide evidence for discrimination. Such studies direct fictitious applications that differ only in the characteristic of interest (e.g., ethnic background) towards the same openings. Differing responses depending on ethnic background can then be interpreted as discrimination.

In a recently published study, ISS researcher Clemens Kroneberg and his collaborators Andreas Horr (LIfBi, Bamberg) and Christian Hunkler (MEA, Munich) had callers in Mannheim and Ludwigshafen respond to more than 800 apartment openings in newspapers to arrange a viewing appointment over the phone. The aim of the study was not only to examine the extent of ethnic discrimination but also to learn about the underlying mechanisms. Results show that there was no discrimination against callers with Turkish names. However, callers with both a Turkish name and accent were invited to view apartments significantly less often (a difference of 14 percentage points). This disadvantage largely disappeared when callers stated as part of their first sentence that they were moving to the city for job-related reasons. This information about steady employment can be assumed to signal more steady employment and greater financial reliability. Thus, rather than being due to non-acceptance of foreigners per se, the observed discrimination seems to largely reflect landlords’ beliefs about the average financial reliability of different ethnic groups (so-called statistical discrimination). This mechanism can be expected to be even more relevant in housing markets like Cologne or Munich where landlords face an even greater surplus demand.

May 2018

The most recent economic crisis of 2007/2008 has hit young adults hard through severe labor market insecurities and high unemployment rates in many countries. This has raised concerns of persisting disadvantages for a “lost generation”. In particular, there is the concern that young people at the transition from education into employment are vulnerable to high unemployment around them and may suffer negative long-term consequences of economic adversity for their health.

ISS researchers Philipp Lersch, Marita Jacob and Karsten Hank examined whether this concern is warranted in a recently published study. For their analysis, they used data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP), which interviews the same individuals repeatedly for many years. The authors examined how regional variation in federal state-level unemployment rates when individuals left education between 1992 and 2015 in West Germany related to individuals’ self-rated health later on up to age 49.

The authors found that, first, young adults leaving education in federal states with high unemployment have initially better health compared to leaving education in states with low unemployment. This counterintuitive result has been repeatedly found by researchers for other countries. One explanation is that economic downturns may lead to less traffic accidents, less pollution and less work stress. Second, the authors found that individual unemployment when leaving education is associated with initially poorer health, regardless of the state-level unemployment rate. This health disadvantage persists as individuals age. Third, those who were unemployed in a high-unemployment context when leaving education are particularly disadvantaged. Their health declines more over time compared to those from low-unemployment contexts.

Thus, in combination with being unemployed themselves, young people who finish education and who experience high unemployment in their environment similar to the recent economic crisis are likely to suffer from worse health in the long run.

April 2018

Potential benefits and risks of mothers’ employment for child development are the subject of heated scientific and public debate. By increasing family income, working mothers may foster development. However, this may come at the cost of reducing the quality and quantity of parent-child interactions that are crucial for small children. In a recent study, ISS researcher Michael Kühhirt and Markus Klein from the University of Strathclyde found that children with similar family background, develop comparable vocabulary and reasoning abilities even if their mothers’ work histories in the first 5 years after birth differ vastly. Therefore, both exaggerated hopes and fears with regard to the consequences of mothers’ employment for children may be unfounded, at least with regard to early language acquisition and cognitive ability.

These results are based on 2,200 children of the Growing Up in Scotland study, who were followed from roughly 10 months after birth until around their fifth birthday. As a measure of vocabulary at age 5, children named objects from a picture booklet. Reasoning ability at age 5 was assessed by requiring children to find common aspects between a given picture and objects displayed in a picture book. Mothers’ employment history and other important characteristics were obtained through annually repeated surveys in the five years after birth.

The study was novel in that it looked at the relation of mothers’ employment with children’s development not only at one particular time point but that it compared the effects of different employment patterns over time. This is important because any impact of maternal employment is likely to unfold only after a longer period of exposure. However, differences in the developmental outcomes at age 5, for the most part, seem to be driven by characteristics influencing maternal employment decisions in the first five years after birth, such as mothers’ education and family structure. While the benefits of a working mother may be limited for children, at least when it comes to the cognitive measures under study here, that the study also found no evidence for harmful effects, is an important implication given universal attempts to increase the share of working mothers. While this is the case at the population level, future research may look at the effect of early maternal employment histories on developmental outcomes among different subgroups.