Decision-making consists of multiple inter-linked decisions taken over and over again: to leave or to stay or to return, where to go, how to get there. Such decisions cannot be understood as isolated events, but rather as belonging within a larger tapestry of life, involving individuals and family members, economic and livelihood considerations, but also political freedom and structural conditions, as well as prospects for well-being, aspirations, and hope for a better future. Decision-making about migration was approached as a ‘push-pull’ cost-benefit analysis in Ravenstein’s ‘laws of migration’ and subsequent early migration theories. However, the literature has long moved on from its simplistic origins to highlight the role of subjective feelings and other intangible factors; meso-level factors, including the role of social networks, social, and cultural contexts; and, migration infrastructures and the roles of policies. Explaining the dynamics of migration decision-making requires attention to the interplay of the voluntary and forced nature of both mobility and immobility. Similarly, due consideration of the roles of time and space are necessary, considering how different durations and geographic perspectives affect both migration decision-making and our analytical approaches to studying them.
Erdal, Marta Bivand & Jessica Hagen-Zanker (2022) Migration decision-making, in Routledge Handbook of Immigration and Refugee Studies. Abingdon: Routledge