Volume 39 - Article 38 | Pages 1009–1038  

Return intentions over the life course: Evidence on the effects of life events from a longitudinal sample of first- and second-generation Turkish migrants in Germany

By Giulia Bettin, Eralba Cela, Tineke Fokkema


Background: Although a growing body of migration literature has focused on the determinants of migrants’ plans to return to the home country, the role major life events play in return migration intention – including transitions and turning points, key concepts of the life course approach – has barely been examined.

Objective: We address the following research question: What are the effects of family, work, and health events on the return intentions of first- and second-generation Turks living in Germany?

Methods: We answer this research question using longitudinal data of first- and second-generation Turkish migrants who participated in the German Socio-Economic Panel (GSOEP) study between 1984 and 2012.

Results: The results for first-generation Turkish migrants show that entering the empty-nest stage, becoming unemployed, and becoming employed in Germany increase the likelihood of intending to return, while partnership dissolution and childbirth act as a deterrent. Partnership formation, entering retirement, and health deterioration neither trigger nor deter the intention to return. For the second generation, becoming unemployed increases the intention to return, while partnership formation has the opposite effect. Partnership dissolution, childbirth, becoming employed in Germany, and health deterioration have no impact on the likelihood of intending to return.

Conclusions: Our study shows that a number of key life events are important triggers of international relocation, although differences emerge when comparing first- and second-generation migrants. Further research could reveal whether these results are specific to the Turkish community.

Contribution: The paper proposes several ways in which the life course approach could be developed in return migration research. It is also one of the first attempts to quantitatively assess the role of crucial life events in the family, work, and health domains in the return decision-making process of non-Western first- and second-generation migrants.

Author's Affiliation

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