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In Germany, there is a lack of data for monitoring discrimination within the scope of protection enshrined in the General Equal Treatment Act. The data situation could be improved particularly by integrating a comprehensive module on discrimination experiences in a large-scale representative household survey, such as the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), at regular intervals. These data could not only inform the reporting on discrimination by Germany’s equality body, the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency; it would, among other things, also provide an important source of data for indicators 10.3.1 and 16.b.1 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Finally, the scientific community could use these data for investigating discrimination.
To prepare for the inclusion of such a module in the core sample of the SOEP and to test and optimise the questions, the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) conducted a comprehensive pretest in 2020/2021. The pretest was also to investigate if respondents understood the wording of the questions and if they had reservations about answering rather sensitive questions on discrimination experiences.
The test module asked for self-reports of discrimination on all grounds defined in German law (plus some further characteristics such as social status) and in various areas of life. Following best practice in asking such questions, it captured discrimination experiences both within the last 5 years and in the last 12 months. In addition, the module comprised questions about whether respondents were aware of the existence of the General Equal Treatment Act. Furthermore, respondents who reported discrimination experiences were also asked how they reacted (e.g. by reporting the incident) and, if they did not react, why.
The project started with a cognitive pretest that investigated if respondents understood the wording and how they interpreted the questions. This cognitive pretest consisted of 10 interviews in three successive waves. The wording was adapted (where needed) after each of the three waves. It was followed by a quantitative test of the module in an online access panel with a sample size of 100. This step was needed to get an overview of the distribution of frequencies for the different variables and to assess if further answer options or categories were necessary.
Finally, the adapted question module was included in the Innovation Sample of the SOEP (SOEP-IS). The SOEP-IS is smaller than the SOEP-Core sample but shares some of its important design elements. It has been developed to include and test new and innovative questions. The questions on discrimination were asked to all SOEP-IS respondents (n = 3,785). Most of the interviews were conducted as computer-assisted personal interviews. Because of COVID-19, however, 30 % of the interviews were conducted by phone.
Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency / Antidiskriminierungsstelle des Bundes