Publication type: Journal Article 3

Protected against all odds? A mixed-methods study on the risk of welfare sanctions for immigrants in Germany

Authors: Gschwind, Lutz; Ratzmann, Nora; Beste, Jonas Publication year: 2021

Sanctions are payment cuts that case managers implement in order to discipline welfare recipients. Previous research suggests that immigrants face a particularly high risk to receive such reductions, primarily due to the prevalence of stereotyping in street-level bureaucracy. The study contributes to this literature with help of a triangulation between in-depth interviews, survey data and administrative records for the case of the German social assistance system. Our findings indicate that immigrants tend to be sanctioned at a lower rate than other benefit recipients in this context, especially if they arrived at the country only recently on grounds of international protection. This finding can be explained by the importance of reciprocity and control in the country's ‘Bismarckian’ welfare state. Our qualitative data shows that case managers exert a considerable level of agency over the implementation process. This discretion is, on the one hand, used to discipline benefit recipients who are perceived as having contributed little to the welfare system as a whole through taxes and social insurance contributions. Those who are considered to have limited control over their labour market position, on the other hand, are given a certain degree of leeway. We therefore conclude, against the background of the current street-level bureaucracy literature, that immigration can also act as a deservingness cue in means-tested social assistance, given that the benefit system is embedded into a welfare regime in which labour market participation, work-testing and social insurance contributions are the dominating principles of eligibility.

doi: 10.1111/spol.12783 Open Access
Gschwind, Lutz; Ratzmann, Nora; Beste, Jonas (2021): Protected against all odds? A mixed-methods study on the risk of welfare sanctions for immigrants in Germany. Social Policy & Administration 56 (3), 502-517. DOI: 10.1111/spol.12783.