Estimation of Different Migration Patterns from Register Data — New Publication

Our analysis of migration flows is now properly published at IMR. We estimate different migration trajectories for 315,000 immigrants in three cohorts (1998, 2003, 2008). Basically, this means that we trace their mobility across time and space. This big data approach using register data — sequence analysis in this case — allows us to identify different migration and mobility patterns.

We find a great heterogeneity in migration practices. Some immigrants move to Switzerland, and for the duration we observe them, they stay there. At the other end of the scale, we have hyper-mobile individuals who enter and leave the country many times, and who also move within Switzerland several times. That’s hardly surprising, but we can do much more with these data.

First, we can systematically classify migration trajectories: identify clusters of individuals with similar patterns of mobility and migration. Some of them correspond to classic accounts in the migration literature, others are hardly ever discussed in existing studies (probably because the existing literature is focused on fixed “types” rather than a probabilistic world-view and with that highlights cases at the extremes).

Second, we can enumerate the relative frequency of different practices. In this sense, we complement the many case studies of specific migrant groups, such as the highly mobile “Eurostars” or traditional “labour migrants”. Qualitative studies provide rich accounts of these different migration and mobility patterns, but only a large-scale study like ours can tell us whether we’re looking at large groups or fringe phenomena.

Third, we can identify tendencies in who is likely to follow a specific migration trajectory. Here we use regression analysis to provide indications what individual-level characteristics are associated with different patterns of mobility.

The complexity of migration trajectories in which many immigrants move multiple times is consistent with narratives of immigrants using their agency to shape migration

Zuffrey et al. 2021, p.273

Forth, we provide evidence that it makes sense to combine the analysis of migration in the sense of crossing international borders and mobility in the sense of location change within a country. Migration does not always end when people cross an international border.

Substantively, we find that most immigrants stay for a short period. We also find that high levels of mobility are not new — the guest-worker regimes were characterized by just as much mobility as the later “free movement” system. Interestingly, despite all the talk of a “mobility turn” and “transnationalism”, we find very few hyper-mobile individuals (yes, they exist, but they are not the typical immigrant).

Zufferey, J., Steiner, I. and Ruedin, D. 2021. ‘The many forms of multiple migrations: Evidence from a sequence analysis in Switzerland, 1998 to 2008’. International Migration Review. 55(1):254-279. doi:10.1177/0197918320914239 [ Link to Publisher | Post-print ]

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