Using Smartphone Technology for Research Among Refugees in Germany

Monday, 16 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Florian KEUSCH, University of Mannheim, Germany
Christoph SAJONS, Walter Eucken Institut, Germany
Susan STEINER, Leibniz University Hannover, Germany
Mariel McKone LEONARD, University of Mannheim, Germany
Researchers attempting to survey refugee populations face a number of methodological issues, in part due to their transiency. Collecting longitudinal data using traditional methods (e.g., f-2-f, telephone) is a particular challenge. We explore the use of smartphone technology as an alternative data collection mechanism, combining passive mobile data collection, i.e. the automatic collection of smartphone data about an individual’s behavior, with mobile web surveys. While passive mobile data collection is still a relatively unexplored method, this approach allows for collecting richer and potentially more accurate data then just self-reports from surveys. However, whether people in general and refugees in particular are willing to participate in such studies allowing automated data collection has not been studied yet.

We first conducted personal interviews with refugees in Germany. As part of the interview we collected consent to contact participants again via email or WhatsApp message for further data collection on their smartphones. Participants were then invited to participate in four follow-up web surveys over the course of three months about different aspects of their integration into Germany, labor market participation, personality traits, and political positions. In addition, participants were invited to download a research app to their smartphones for passive mobile data collection to infer measures of refugees’ mobility, social interaction, and labor market participation over time. We also conducted an experiment on the effect of incentives on participation rates.

Overall, we found that refugees are very skeptical towards passive data collection; we had low participation rates in the app experiment: 7% compared to 30% and 13% for the first two surveys, respectively. Additionally, the incentives provided a slight but insignificant positive effect on participation.