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. Open Access.

The author(s) should also cite …

Peer-reviewing is a funny business. It’s not uncommon to receive requests to cite some work not already cited, and often these are useful pointers of where the literature is at: highlighting oversights. Sometimes they are clearly strategic, like when the editor asks to cite a vaguely-related paper recently published in the same journal, or when the reviewer asks to be cited more or less openly. Sometimes they are puzzling, like:

  • cite a 15-years old PhD thesis from a person who does not appear active in academia any more (no web presence, no hits in Google Scholar)
  • cite Smith 2008 in European Sociological Review (I’m making this example up), only to find that there is no such paper. I recently had a reviewer where all papers indicated were wrong and I was left guessing — either the author(s), year, or journal were wrong
  • cite that forthcoming paper by Smith et al. which is not yet available as “Early View”
  • cite a research report only available in Hungarian
  • the assertion that “there must be existing literature on this”