Out now: Politicising Immigration in Times of Crisis — or how to measure the impact of a crisis when we don’t agree when the crisis was

I’m happy to announce a new publication in JEMS on politicizing immigration in times of crisis. Especially so, as it is the ‘first one’ for two of my excellent co-authors!

The basic setup is quite simple, we look at data on the politicization of immigration — our update on the SOM project. It’s a broad understanding of politicization, looking at how different actors (broadly defined) talk about immigration and immigrant integration. We use claims-analysis using printed newspapers as the basis, which allows us to compare the situation over time. We then examine how the nature of politicization differs during times of crisis compared to non-crisis periods.

We have N=2,853 claims to examine, the oil crisis of the 1970s and the financial crisis of the late 2000s as two external crises not directly related to immigration. Theoretical considerations provide us with expectations of how claims-making during periods of crisis differs qualitatively: we look at salience (how many claims are made), polarization (the positions taken in claims), actor diversity (who makes the claims), and frames (how claims are justified).

And then you sit down to define the crisis periods… we started with discussions in the team, soon realizing that we don’t agree. Then we went to the literature, trying to find a more authoritative definition of when these crises started and ended. And then we fully embraced uncertainty: basically there is no agreement on when these crises stared or ended. The solution is also relatively simple: we just used all the possible definitions (a bit of combinatorics there…) and run separate regression models. 7,524 of them to be precise. The nice thing with that is that you really have to embrace uncertainty, and that graphs really are more intuitive than any arbitrary measure of central tendency.

Yes, you get things that are fairly obvious (we can quibble about effect size):

Sample effect size; grey dashed line on right indicates zero; blue dashed line on the left indicates the median coefficient across all the regression models.

and you get things that are simply unclear, with values around zero quite credible, but would you bet against en effect size of +0.05 or -0.05?

Sample effect size; grey dashed line on left indicates zero; blue dashed line on the right indicates the median coefficient across all the regression models.

What I really like about this kind of presentation is that it naturally embraces our uncertainty about the state of things. Yes, “crisis” is vague as a concept, yes, it is difficult to operationalize it (otherwise we would not run 7,524 regression models), but we still can discern systematic patterns of how the politicization of migration in times of crisis differs from non-crisis moments.

Bitschnau, Marco, Leslie Ader, Didier Ruedin, and Gianni D’Amato. 2021. “Politicising Immigration in Times of Crisis: Empirical Evidence from Switzerland.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. Online First. doi: 10.1080/1369183X.2021.1936471. [ Open Access]

Parallel Universes

Two recent books examine the politiclization of migration in the news in Europe. It’s great to see different takes on this important topic, but having contributed to an earlier similar study with an extensive study of how the media report immigration, it struck me how much we’re working in parallel universes. The excellent REMINDER project managed to go 3 years without discovering the work by Van der Brug et al., the equally excellent TransSOL project did find it. Both H2020 projects start in 2015, after the so-called ‘refugee crisis’, whereas Van der Brug et all covered 1995 to 2009. Should we count this as a failure to publicize the work, or are we simply looking at parallel universes where each universe prolifically produces new knowledge…?

Cinalli, Manlio, Hans-Jörg Trenz, Verena K. Brändle, Olga Eisele, and Christian Lahusen. 2021. Solidarity in the Media and Public Contention over Refugees in Europe. Abingdon, Oxon ; New York : Routledge, 2021.

Strömbäck, Jesper, Christine E. Meltzer, Jakob-Moritz Eberl, Christian Schemer, and Hajo G. Boomgaarden. 2021. Media and Public Attitudes Toward Migration in Europe: A Comparative Approach. Routledge.

Van der Brug, Wouter, Gianni D’Amato, Joost Berkhout, and Didier Ruedin, eds. 2015. The Politicisation of Migration. Abingdon: Routledge.

Migration and Discrimination: A Reader

I’m very happy to announce the publication of a reader on migration and discrimination by Rosita Fibbi, Arnfinn Midtbøen, and Patrick Simon. The reader comes in at some 100 pages and is completely free and open access at the IMISCOE/Springer website.

Some readers may want to skip the chapter making a case for research on migration and discrimination, but for others will find a well justified and researched overview why this topic is important!

We get an overview of key concepts, key theories, and a discussion of different measurements. All these in a more comprehensive way than what research articles can offer, yet in an accessible way.

In my view, the chapter summarizing discrimination across social domains comes in a bit short. Thinking ahead how this reader can be used in a course, though, I guess this is fine, since most course providers probably want to put a focus on the empirical evidence anyway and will pick more detailed studies of these weeks.

The reader is then completed with sections on the consequences of discrimination — again a part that could have been longer, but again a part where course providers will have their own preferred material to complement the book. The chapter on combatting discrimination is a summary of classic strategies, but does not discuss some more recent ideas how discrimination can be reduced or overcome.

Overall an excellent and nicely put together resource that many will want to use in their courses or just read themselves! Download your copy now…

The Sociology of Migration in Switzerland: Past, Present and Future

The editorial to our special issue is now available on Sciendo! The introduction to the special issue reflects on the knowledge production in the sociology of migration. We emphasise the continuous and changing challenges of knowledge production in the sociology of migration, taking a historical perspective to outline how contemporary contributions are a development of previous work. We observe an unprecedented willingness by researchers to challenge earlier perceptions of “immigrants” as a homogenous population, – something largely banished to populist political discourse these days. We identify contributions to the reflexive turn, but also and increasing focus on specific social phenomena and the dedication to finding solutions to societal challenges such as inequality or social cohesion.

Chimienti, Milena, Claudio Bolzman, and Didier Ruedin. 2021. ‘The Sociology of Migration in Switzerland: Past, Present and Future’. Swiss Journal of Sociology. 47(1):1-20. doi:10.2478/sjs-2021-0004 [Open Access]

New Publication: Decision-Making Under Uncertainty

I’m happy to announce a new publication, coming out of the Swiss Subsaharan African Migration Network. My direct contribution to this thematic issue was the introduction, where I examine common strands of the articles in the issue. As hinted at in the title, the focus is on decision-making under uncertainty — and migration decisions are the example to explore these issues.

When I write about ‘migrants’ here, let’s be clear that there is enormous heterogeneity in this ‘group’: different motivations, different aspirations, different capabilities, and different strategies to deal with the uncertainty inherent in migration decisions.

We do not observe naïve and gullible migrants ignorant of the risks and dangers of irregular migration, nor do we find masses of ‘victims’ tricked by fraudsters and smugglers. Instead, we observe individuals with aspirations, navigating a world characterized by limitations and boundaries. Information is patchy, but this has as much to do with the changing circumstances and opportunities—each risky to some extent. Under these circumstances, migrants show great flexibility to reach their goals, drawing on heuristics and narratives as is common in decision-making under limited information.

p.183

When thinking about migration decisions, it’s better to think about a chain of linked decisions — a chain where circumstances can and do change. In these circumstances, occasionally we also observe what I called “migration velleity” rather than ambition.

Ruedin, Didier. 2021. ‘Decision-Making Under Uncertainty: African Migrants in the Spotlight’. Social Inclusion 9 (1): 182–186. https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v9i1.4076. Open Access.