Merlin Schaeffer

Merlin Schaeffer


I am a sociologist with a specialization in the conceptual and theory-driven empirical analysis of immigration-based ethnic diversity and stratification, as well as their contentious political consequences. Currently I work as Associate Professor of Sociology at University of Copenhagen, Denmark. My work is based on a wide range of social theories from various traditions and I also advance sociology via own original theoretical and conceptual contributions, such as the Contested Boundaries Hypothesis (co-developed with Joscha Legewie, Harvard University), or Relational Ethnic Entropy (Co-developed with Ruud Koopmans, WZB). Most of my empirical work relies on state-of-the-art statistical methods, which I use to analyze survey data, (online) experiments, behavioral games, register and spatial data, meta-analytic data, or new forms of digital trace data. Much of my research has a comparative angle and I also work on the advancement of the statistical methods used for comparative research.


My office hour is Tuesdays 10-11am in office 16.1.54.



Current research

Currently, my work revolves around the following four questions:

  1. Ethnic diversity: How does growing ethnic diversity affect societies’ social cohesiveness? Please see my recent review and meta-analysis on the topic, which I published with Peter Dinesen (KU Political Science) and Kim Sønderskov (Aarhus University).
  2. Perceived and actual discrimination: Why do claims about the pervasiveness of discrimination seem to intensify, as western societies increase equality and liberty with regards to immigrant minorities? To answer this question I will conduct online trust games among a large representative sample of the German population. This research constitutes my APAX project funded by the German Research Council (DFG).
  3. Ethnic residential segregation: How do immigrants and their descendants fare in mainstream suburbs? In the WELLMOB project funded by the German Research Council (DFG), Sarah Carol (UC Dublin), Jonas Wiedner (WZB Berlin Social Science Center) and I investigate the internal-migration of persons of immigrant origin and how they fare in terms of subjective wellbeing when they move to mainstream suburbs.
  4. Comparative research: How can we perform valid and reliable statistical multilevel analysis of small cluster samples? Please see my most recent article on the topic with Martin Elff (Zeppelin University), Jan Paul Heisig (WZB Berlin Social Science Center) and Susumu Shikano (University of Konstanz), which was published in the British Journal of Political Science.


At KU's Department of Sociology I predominantly teach advanced MA courses on quantitative methods. However, at other Universities I have also taught theory-guided introductions to Sociology, or basic introductions to statistics. Currently I teach classes on:

  • Advanced Quantitative Methods
  • Spatial Sociology
  • Introduction to R for Social Data Science
  • Applied Multilevel Modeling: Racism and Xenophoba
  • Sociology in the Age of Big Data



Selected publications

  1. Published

    Ethnic Diversity and Social Trust: A Narrative and Meta-Analytical Review

    Dinesen, Peter Thisted, Schaeffer, Merlin & Sønderskov, K. M., 2020, In: Annual Review of Political Science. 23, p. 441-465

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

  2. Published

    Social Mobility and Perceived Discrimination: Adding an Intergenerational Perspective

    Schaeffer, Merlin, 2019, In: European Sociological Review. 35, 1, p. 65-80 16 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

  3. Contested Boundaries: Explaining Where Ethnoracial Diversity Provokes Neighborhood Conflict

    Legewie, J. & Schaeffer, Merlin, 2016, In: American Journal of Sociology. 122, 1, p. 125-161

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

  4. The Costs of Simplicity: Why Multilevel Models May Benefit from Accounting for Cross-Cluster Differences in the Effects of Controls

    Heisig, J. P., Schaeffer, Merlin & Giesecke, J., 2017, In: American Sociological Review. 82, 4, p. 796-827

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

Selected activities

  1. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (External organisation)

    Schaeffer, Merlin (Member)


    Activity: Membership typesMembership in committee, council, board

Selected prizes

  1. ASA Outstanding Article Publication in Mathematical Sociology Award

    Schaeffer, Merlin (Recipient) & Legewie, J. (Recipient), 1 Jun 2018

    Prize: Prizes, scholarships, distinctions

  2. ASA Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship in Population Award

    Schaeffer, Merlin (Recipient) & Legewie, J. (Recipient), 1 Sep 2017

    Prize: Prizes, scholarships, distinctions

  3. DGS Anatol Rapoport Prize

    Schaeffer, Merlin (Recipient), Höhn, J. (Recipient) & Teney, C. (Recipient), 1 Sep 2016

    Prize: Prizes, scholarships, distinctions

ID: 191349312