Overburdened? How refugee dispersal policies can mitigate NIMBYism and public backlash

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With growing numbers of forcibly displaced people and their tendency to spatially cluster, destination countries around the world consider dispersing them over their territory. While the egocentric not-in-my-back-yard syndrome (NIMBYism) predicts that dispersion will spark a public backlash, sociotropic considerations and appeals to civic fairness predict the contrary. I theorise that the institutional set-up determines which force prevails. Although the local proximity of refugees triggers public opposition, it can be substantially countered by tighter regulation on refugee dispersion. Setting clear guiding rules, such as an upper limit or proportional allocation can enhance both burden-sharing in the accommodation of refugees and public support for their incorporation. Evidence from survey experiments conducted in Norway and Israel supports these theoretical accounts. The findings have implications for understanding how countries can mitigate public backlash against immigrants and refugees while maintaining their admission and integration.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalJournal of European Public Policy
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Asylum policy
  • forced migration
  • public attitudes
  • refugees

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration


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