Maik Theelen

Research Assistant


+49 241 80 96160



The high number of asylum applications poses significant challenges for the EU states. The public discourse on the refugee question shows how polarized the population is. On the one hand, some welcome and support the refugees. On the other hand, some are more skeptical or even hostile towards them. However, surprisingly little is known about which economic, psychological, and political factors influence the willingness of citizens to help those who have fled.

Questionnaire studies on citizens willingness to help have only limited external validity. We have developed a new experimental-economic method to study the behavior of citizens to help refugees. In controlled experiments, decisions to help refugees are investigated that have real financial consequences for the helpers and the recipients. First studies with this innovative method were published in PNAS in 2018.

In project HILFEE we are investigating (1) several potential factors that have not been considered so far, and that could influence the willingness to help refugees; (2) various possible political interventions to improve this willingness to help.

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