Return Migration as Failure or Success?

The Determinants of Return Migration Intentions Among Moroccan Migrants in Europe

Abstract

Different migration theories generate competing hypotheses with regard to determinants of return migration. While neoclassical migration theory associates migration to the failure to integrate at the destination, the new economics of labour migration sees return migration as the logical stage after migrants have earned sufficient assets and knowledge and to invest in their origin countries. The projected return is then likely to be postponed for sustained or indefinite periods if integration is unsuccessful. So, from an indication or result of integration failure return is rather seen as a measure of success. Drawing on recent survey data (N = 2,832), this article tests these hypotheses by examining the main determinants of return intention among Moroccan migrants across Europe. The results indicate that structural integration through labour market participation, education and the maintenance of economic and social ties with receiving countries do not significantly affect return intentions. At the same time, investments and social ties to Morocco are positively related, and socio-cultural integration in receiving countries is negatively related to return migration intentions. The mixed results corroborate the idea that there is no uniform process of (return) migration and that competing theories might therefore be partly complementary.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The quota was successfully met with the exception of Moroccan migrants living in the UK.

  2. 2.

    This variable is rather a rough indication of someone’s intention to return as the potential returnees were not asked when they actually planned to go back to Morocco. Prior studies with a time frame follow-up question, however, show that a substantial proportion of those who report a return intention do not have a specific idea on the timing of their return (cf. de Haas and Fokkema 2011).

  3. 3.

    We acknowledge that integration is a highly contested concept in wide-ranging debates in the USA and Europe and, although it is often contrasted to “assimilation”, integration and assimilation are terms of shifting and often overlapping meaning (King and Christou 2007). Operational definitions of integration often focus on adoption to majority society and culture. This makes them often virtually indistinguishable from assimilation and not question the hegemonic role of receiving societies as well as the false notion that there is one, monolithic “mainstream”. It is not the aim of this article to indulge into this complex debate, but it is important to be aware of the contested, normative and politicized nature of the integration concept.

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Acknowledgement

Hein de Haas’s research is part of the DEMIG project and has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) / ERC Grant Agreement 240940.

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Correspondence to Hein de Haas.

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de Haas, H., Fokkema, T. & Fihri, M.F. Return Migration as Failure or Success?. Int. Migration & Integration 16, 415–429 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12134-014-0344-6

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Keywords

  • Return migration
  • Integration
  • Transnationalism
  • Morocco
  • Europe