In search of a theory of multiple migration. A quantitative and qualitative study of Polish migrants after 1989


For centuries people have moved in search for a better life elsewhere, but recently these movements have intensified. ICT technology and development of cheap transport options lead to expanded opportunities for international mobility and a qualitatively new experience of migration. The EU expansion to Central and Eastern Europe widened the pool of available destinations for European citizens. In this new migration and mobility context along more traditional migrants who leave for a destination and settle there, there are more and more migrants who stay on the move, migrating from one destination to another. Thus the objective of this project is to focus on the group of migrants who have moved twice or more, analysing Poles moving post-1989 (who have the experience of living in at least two foreign countries for 6 months or more). Polish migrants are particularly interesting group, because of their long and diverse migration tradition and wide geographical spread.

This project will provide (1) new knowledge on repeat migration and (2) new tools to track mobilities of people in an increasingly globalised world.

While there is a diversity of theories explaining migration, it is unclear to what extent it applies also to repeat migration. We need to learn more about repeat migrants and why they do not settle in the countries they move to, but instead choose to move on. Research suggests that repeat migrants are a quite distinctive group from other migrants, possessing more resources and better information when they decide to move onwards. Existing knowledge also suggests that repeat migrants possess higher levels of human capital than migrants in general. If this is indeed the case, repeat migrants are particularly interesting group of movers, because they point to how human capital can be transferred from one setting to another. This is potentially important for countries which compete for talent globally and try to attract the best worldwide. Repeat mobility is interesting as well when analysed from the micro perspective: it highlights how and when decisions around mobility are taken, which destinations are chosen and for how long. Repeat migration also emphasises links between migration and individual life courses, as it can be taken individually or negotiated as a part of a household strategy. This is why the project will also examine repeat migrants along different categories of movers that can be represented, among which labour migrants, following family member, moving for self-development or education etc.

Thus this research project proposes to study: Who are repeat migrants? How do they make decisions about migration? What are the types of movers, their routes, motivations for moving, sequences of migration spells and their durations? What are the labour market trajectories of repeat migrants?

In order to provide a broad picture of repeat migration the project will build on expertise from different disciplines: sociology, geography, psychology, economics, demographics, political sciences and the IT. Interdisciplinary approach will ensure a comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon. It will also contribute to development of innovative set of quantitative and qualitative methods. These tools will allow locating highly mobile migrants with an online survey and tracking their trajectories as they move across countries and labour markets using repeated in-depth interview strategy. For this reason an interdisciplinary working group (WG) at the Centre of Migration Research (CMR) will be established. It will focus specifically on innovative methods for migration studies.




2016 - 2021

Source of funding

NCN Sonata BIS