Dynamics of return migration: descriptive findings from a longitudinal study

by Julie DaVanzo, Peter A. Morrison

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Return migration is movement of people back to places where they formerly lived. Based on data from a longitudinal survey of 5,000 U.S. families interviewed annually, the authors found: propensity to make return moves declines as absence lengthens; there are noticeable differences between migrants who return within a year and those who move after more extended absence--those prone to immediate return are the less educated, less skilled; first-time migrants are positively selected, and so are those who migrate again without returning; those who return soonest are negatively selected. Practical implications of these findings bear on three matters: (1) Measurement of return migration--many moves go undetected when using Census data at five year intervals. (2) Effect of return migration on local economy and labor force. (3) Strategies for strengthening migration's personal economic effectiveness--helping unemployed migrants with their personal planning and supplying information to broaden their choice of destinations.

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