34 / 2011
Deborah Holman, Claudia Schneider

Complex and Multi-layered Processes of Decision Making on Length of Stay: European Citizens from A8 and A2 Countries in the UK1


This article focuses on post-2004 migration to the UK from A8 and A2 countries and discusses the complex, multi-layered and bounded nature of migrants’ decision making on length of stay. It argues that the maximisation of economic benefits is only one factor amongst many which influences decision making. Following a ‘bounded rationality’ approach the article considers the following three dimensions of decision making: perception of environment, goals and normative principles. Data from a longitudinal study of migrant workers in the East of England will be used to illustrate migrants’ decisions on length of stay. The study combined a mixed methods approach with a longitudinal panel approach and the article will present findings from three phases of semi-structured interviews (a core group of 30 A8/ A2 citizens over three years) and two surveys (161 participants in year 1 of which 61 responded in year 2). The article concludes that the maximisation of economic benefits is only part of a complex bundle of factors which influence decisions on length of stay. A positive perception of the wider social situation in the UK (influenced partly by participants’ transnational experience), a strong goal orientation (in the context of personal life and education) and strong normative principles (reflected in aspirations, de- termination, resilience and a certain flexibility regarding notions of identity and belonging) have been highlighted as important factors in decision making processes on length of stay.

KEY WORDS: A8/A2 migration, decision making, length of stay, bounded rationality