Applying Behavioral Insights to Support Immigrant Integration and Social Cohesion
In many countries, policymakers are looking for innovative ways to build connections between people of different backgrounds and to help immigrants find their footing in a new society. One promising tool is behavioral insights—an evidence-based approach to policy and program design that is grounded in a nuanced understanding of human behavior and how people make decisions in practice. Governments have already employed this approach to 'nudge' people into taking action in policy areas as varied as health care and tax compliance, but there has thus far been no systematic effort to explore its potential to support immigrant integration.
This report examines the lessons behavioral research and interventions from other policy fields could offer integration policymakers. In doing so, it highlights common integration policy goals that could benefit from a behavioral approach, including efforts to strengthen community cohesion, address inequalities between immigrants and the broader population, and improve uptake of public services. The overarching aim: to encourage people to make better choices for themselves and the societies in which they live.
One key challenge, this analysis finds, is that many public services were originally designed with a “typical” user in mind. Efforts to update these services for increasingly diverse populations will thus need to involve rigorous testing with different groups and adjustments to ensure they work well for users with a variety of linguistic and cultural backgrounds and service needs. Crucially, many of the solutions recommended by a behavioral approach—from streamlining government communications and application forms to creating opportunities for people of different backgrounds to interact and learn from one another—are relatively low-cost and easy to implement. They also hold the potential to benefit many segments of society, in addition to newcomers.
II. Why Behavioral Insights?
Conceptualizing Behavioral Insights in Integration
III. Promising Areas for Intervention
A. Community Cohesion and Social Integration
B. Socioeconomic Integration
C. Access to the Public Realm
IV. Next Steps
A. Where Should Policymakers Intervene?
B. Key Questions before Adopting a Behavioral Approach