Promising Practice

Survey on Experiences of Discrimination in Germany

Diskriminierungserfahrungen in Deutschland
In 2015, the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency of Germany (FADA) surveyed people affected by discrimination for an in-depth analysis of discrimination experiences. To enhance the validity and reliability of the survey, its design included possibilities for self-identification of respondents and measures to reach out to respondents from under-represented and/or hard-to-reach groups.
Operational guidelines
Enhance validity and reliability
Gender identity
Racial or ethnic origin
Religion or belief
Sexual orientation
All grounds / Cross-cutting
Includes multiple / intersectional discrimination


In this page:

Why was the practice needed?

In 2015, the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency (FADA) conducted a study comprising of two different elements: a representative survey on discrimination experiences of the general population with a sample of 1007 people; and a survey targeting people who had witnessed or suffered discrimination. This reached 18,162 people, who were asked to describe up to two discrimination experiences that occurred during the 24 months preceding the survey. The following information relates to this second survey of people who experienced discrimination.

In order to enhance the validity and reliability of the data collected, the research was designed to consider key principles for the collection and use of equality data. This included: the participation of groups or communities at risk of discrimination; allowing for respondent self-identification; and capturing forms of multiple or intersectional discrimination.

This design aimed to build trust in the survey and the implementing institutions. It ensured support from various relevant civil society organisations in distributing the questionnaire among their community members. It also improved the quality of the questionnaire and increased its acceptance among potential respondents by reaching consensus on data collection issues, including definitions, categories and proxies.

Furthermore, specific measures were taken to increase the number of interviews with respondents from hard-to-reach target groups.

How was it implemented?

FADA commissioned the Berlin Institute for Integration and Migration Research (BIM) to conduct the survey. The preparation of the survey included expert interviews with researchers and representatives of organisations in the field of anti-discrimination, who provided useful feedback on the draft questionnaire.

Before the launch of the survey, a workshop with representatives of relevant NGOs, the Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration and the Federal Government Commissioner for Matters relating to people with disabilities allowed for feedback on the questionnaire itself, its distribution, and the commissioning of multipliers for hard-to-reach target groups. After the fieldwork was completed a second workshop with the same stakeholders discussed the preliminary results and recommendations.

Measures taken to enable self-identification of the respondents and the recognition of intersectional/multiple discrimination include:

  • throughout the computer assisted (CAWI), and paper and pencil (PAPI) interviews, respondents could assign themselves to one of the categories (no interviewer assignment);
  • most questions had open-ended text fields where respondents could either specify the categories that they had chosen or expand the list of categories;
  • the survey asked for both positive self-identification as well as for third-party categorisations that respondents find most disturbing (auto-hetero perception);
  • in many questions (especially when it comes to grounds of discrimination or socio-demographic variables) respondents could choose more than one category.

Measures taken to reach out to respondents from specific target groups include:

  • translation of CAWI-questionnaire into six different languages;
  • inclusion of software in the online questionnaire that reads out the questions and categories for people with limited eyesight or reading literacy performance;
  • providing support in sign language via SQAT-Service (Signing Question and Answer Tool) for people with a hearing impairment;
  • hiring multipliers to motivate people from hard-to-reach target groups (such as people with disabilities, elderly people or people in need of care, refugees, Sinti and Roma, people with a low social status) to take part in the survey and to provide support in doing so.

The grounds of discrimination respondents expressed included the ones set out in the General Equal Treatment Act, namely sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnic and racial origin, migration background, religion, disability or impairment, but also others, such as socio-economic status, physical appearance or family status.

Respondents could also indicate if they had been discriminated against on more than one ground in a specific situation.


  • the survey questionnaire is available on request
  • the Federal Antidiscrimination Agency released the survey report in December 2017
  • the participatory research approach led to an increased interest of minority communities and civil society organisations in the use of the collected data

Key success factors

  • Investing enough time and financial resources in the measures required. Furthermore, all relevant actors have to be willing to deal with different or sometimes even contradictory expectations and opinions (e.g. on the use of definitions, categories and proxies) and to try to reconcile them.
  • A high level of acceptance of the questionnaire by stakeholders is key to attaining a large number of interviews. This in turn allows for in-depth analysis of specific forms of discrimination and of discrimination experiences in specific areas of life.

Technical information

  • Data sources covered: Victimisation surveys.
  • Areas of life covered: Employment; Education; Health; Housing and living conditions; Access to goods and services; Others: Public spaces and leisure time, government offices and authorities.
  • Target audience: Groups at risk of discrimination, potential survey respondents
  • Duration: January 2015 - June 2017
  • Geographical scope: National
  • Leading institution: Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency, Germany (FADA) commissioned the study. The Berlin Institute for Integration and Migration Research (BIM) at the Humboldt University of Berlin carried out the study.
  • Other organisations involved/consulted: A comprehensive list of stakeholders involved and consulted is included in the survey report (pp. 327-329)
  • Financial & human resources: Budget: No information provided; Source of the budget: an resources:Budget: No information provided; Source of the budget: ; Staff: No information provided


Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency / Antidiskriminierungsstelle des Bundes

Rainer Stocker 

Email: rainer (dot) stocker (at) ads (dot) bund (dot) de