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Subjective and intangible factors in migration decision-making: A review of side-lined literature

Journal issue/article

Written by Jessica Hagen-Zanker, Gemma Hennessey, Caterina Mazzilli

Journal issue/article

Migration is much more than a linear journey from a country of origin to one of destination. Quite the opposite, the contours of migration journeys fade into, on the one side, the mental processes preceding it and, on the other, the seemingly never-ending settling and integration phases in the new place of residence (Çağlar 2016). All throughout this process, tangible and intangible elements alike shape up, motivate, and direct migrants’ own decisions on whether or not to migrate, how, when, through which channels, and whether to migrate onwards or return.

This literature review springs from the observation that, while the analysis of tangible factors is well established in the literature, the study of intangible ones is still a niche topic. Yet, a range of diverse research has pointed out that subjective and intangible factors do matter in migration decision-making. Our aim is thus to rebalance this relation by systematically (1) pointing out the importance of subjective and intangible elements in every aspect of migration decision-making and (2) revealing their complexity and constant overlapping with each other and with tangible elements, through a review of this body of literature.