Intergenerational Relationships and Rural Return Migration
Many rural communities lose population through outmigration of rural youth, resulting in a high concentration of elderly. Concern about these issues sparked our interest in researching rural return migration as a way of countering net migration loss. In the process, we found that intergenerational family dynamics and aging parents residing in the rural hometown are critical for promoting the return move of adult children and grandchildren. Intergenerational relationships and migration to be closer to family provide a context for understanding these moves. Prior research on intergenerational relationships and geographic proximity has focused on the moves of aging parents toward adult children, often using quantitative methodologies. This research focuses on the moves of adult children, using a qualitative methodology. It reveals that the return move of adult children can substitute for aging parents’ move away from a long-term rural residence to live closer to adult children and grandchildren. Migration decisions on the part of adult children thus affect elderly parents’ opportunities for aging in place. Community leaders, especially in relatively isolated, rural towns that find it difficult to attract newcomers, should become cognizant that aging parents can attract younger generations back to their rural home towns.
Funding for this research was provided by a competitive research grant of the National Research Initiative (NRI grant 2007-35401-17742) from CSREES (now NIFA) of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The views expressed here, however, are those of the authors, and may not be attributed to the USDA or the Economic Research Service of the USDA. Additional thanks goes to the many individuals in 21 non-metropolitan counties nationwide who shared their insight by participating in interviews. We are grateful to the editors for their thoughtful suggestions on a previous draft of this chapter.
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