The Impact of Networks on Integration and Social Norms of Migrant Women in Denmark

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is prevalent worldwide even when measures of gender disparity are considered. For example, despite Denmark having the second-lowest Gender Inequality Index score in the UNDP ranking, IPV is still prevalent: in 2014, national rates were not distinctly different from global proportions of 1/3 (FRA, 2014). Immigrant women disproportionately composed this statistic. While only 11.8% of women were classified as immigrants nationally, 42% of women’s shelter stays were non-Danish in 2019 (LOKK, 2020). In March 2021, we are awarded the LEAP student grant to explore these differences further and understand the role of norms in driving these statistics.

The research that motivates our proposal is by Alesina, Brioschi and La Ferrara (2021). Specifically, this paper showed that contemporaneous rates of IPV acceptance were higher amongst women that descended from historically patrilocal ethnicities, suggesting information and social protection influence incidences of violence. Our proposal aims to build on the emphasized persistence of IPV in Alesina et. al (2021) to understand whether attitudes, and subsequently incidences, are malleable when exposed to a contrasting perspective. The aim of our research is to develop on the economic and anthropological literature to understand to what extent social networks influence the norms of native and non-native women victim of IPV.

Hypotheses on the benefits of support networks are manyfold. Native-to-native and migrant-to-migrant bonds could help connect women with someone who has similar experiences, and background, which they can relate to and share. For the latter, if these women are less integrated in Danish society, there is likely a higher risk of being marginalized, leaving fewer means to cope with and overcome domestic violence. The relationship between migrants and natives could help migrants integrate into Denmark, providing legal, economic and social guidance to help them assimilate with the local culture, markets and processes. On the other hand, natives could also benefit by diversifying their social networks outside of those that her perpetrator is familiar with. We then plan to study the impact of such networks on a multitude of socio-economic outcomes, such as employment and job search, social security and health, both mental and physical and aim to conduct a survey through the registry to collect information on norms.

In order to analyse the causal effect of interactions among women of a matching or a different ethnicity, we exploit several sources of exogenous variation in the ethnic composition of the shelter population. At the national level, a variety of measures have been imposed to increase contact between natives and non-natives, and, in particular, we focus on a refugee dispersal policy introduced in the 1980s that allocated migrants as evenly as possible throughout the country to reduce formation of “ethnic enclaves”. At the shelter level, we plan to leverage the fact that women are randomly assigned to different floors, so that the “ethnic composition” of each floor is exogenous. Hence exposure to co-nationals or to women of different ethnicity, and consequently the likelihood of bonding with them, is also randomly determined. As there may be endogenous room switches, we have reached out to several shelters across the country about the possibility of a more robust experimental design to explore how contact with different perspectives can shape social norms.

Given shelters collect the social security numbers of residents, the shelter stays can be combined with the national administrative data. This has provided us access to a rich dataset, which we have purchased through our LEAP grant, containing information on a plethora of dimensions, including health-related information, criminal records, job market outcomes, and social security benefits, about all women between 18 and 65 years old living in Denmark for the last 15 years, along with eventual partners and children.

We have recently received the data and are in the process of cleaning them. We have started conducting a preliminary analysis to understand the socio-economic correlates of shelter stays. We look forward to disseminating our results in due course.


European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, 2014. Violence against Women: An EU-wide Survey. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

Alesina, A., Brioschi, B., & La Ferrara, E. (2021). Violence against women: a cross‐cultural analysis for Africa. Economica, 88(349), 70-104.

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