Who gets asylum?

The impact of traits and biases on bureaucrats’ decision making.

Our proposed 3-year project will study the role of bureaucrats in the asylum process. Our main purpose is to investigate the outcome of asylum applications, and to what extent these are affected by traits and biases among the bureaucrats. Although earlier research provides numerous insights about the causes and consequences of migration, less attention has been directed to the intermediate bureaucratic process deciding who gets asylum. The lack of attention is surprising given the well-documented level of discretion bureaucrats enjoy in their work.

Specifically, we will study how similarity based on gender between case workers and applicants, and external events such as terror attacks affect the outcome of asylum claims at the Swedish Migration Agency (SMA). We will also study the relation between case workers’ career trajectories and asylum assessments. The project will employ quantitative methods, relying on a database including all asylum cases from 2009-2018, but we will also perform interviews with agents within the SMA. The project will be carried out by a research group with extensive knowledge on asylum policy and advanced methodological designs.

Knowledge about the aforementioned factors influence on asylum decisions is important and potentially urgent to correct any discrepancies and safeguard equal considerations of asylum cases. Considering the contemporary migration flows, such knowledge is of great relevance both in Sweden and internationally.

Project start





Henrik Andersson (project manager), researcher in economics
Linna Martén, Research coordinator at Department of Economics

Last modified: 2022-12-05