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.


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.

Out now! A Global Dataset of COVID-19 Restrictions on Human Movement

I’m very happy to announce a new publication describing a new, global dataset of COVID-19 restrictions on human movement. In the research note, we introduce the Citizenship, Migration and Mobility in a Pandemic (CMMP): A dataset which features systematic information on border closures and domestic lockdowns in response to the Covid-19 outbreak in 211 countries and territories worldwide. We document the evolution of the types and scope of international travel bans and exceptions to them, as well as internal measures including limitations of non-essential movement and curfews in 27 countries.

Now it’s your turn! Can we explain variation in restriction on human movement? Did these restrictions affect the pandemic?

Piccoli, Lorenzo, Jelena Dzankic, and Didier Ruedin. 2021. ‘Citizenship, Migration and Mobility in a Pandemic (CMMP): A Global Dataset of COVID-19 Restrictions on Human Movement’. PLoS ONE. 16(3): e0248066.  Open Access

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 ]