Return migration in China: A case study of Sichuan and Anhui
Return migration is central for understanding human mobility. My dissertation has focused on urban-rural return migration and its interpretation in China, where the coexistence of market mechanisms and institutional forces complicates the understanding of migration. More specifically, the objective of the dissertation is to examine the selectivity of returnees, the process of return migration and its impacts on rural development.
In the dissertation, I illustrate a framework based on return reasons, which shed important light on returnees' decision making and the circumstances under which they decide to return. I show that the family dimension should be added to the traditional success-failure dichotomy to address the labor in rural China today. The importance of family demand to migrants is also a function of their institutional and social inferiority in the city. I also argue that the literature's empirical basis for emphasizing success returnees is weak and I show that failure returnees are more prevalent in China than are portrayed by existing research based on an empirical study of Sichuan and Anhui provinces. Return migration can have significant impacts on rural development both economically and socially. The results have shown that success returnees have the best post-migration economic performance, followed by family returnees and failure returnees. Migration and occupational experience are the most influential indicators for return migrants to achieve post-migration success.
From a theoretical point of view, my dissertation's findings reinforce the importance of an institutional perspective and its impact on household strategies for understanding migrants' decision making process, especially in economies that are making structural transformations. Empirically, the results highlight the prevalence of failure returnees and raise questions about the extent to which return migrants can contribute to the economic development of their origin villages. For policy makers, my findings suggest that reducing institutional barriers may be the best strategy to enable rural migrants to succeed and contribute to rural development.