Return migration by German guestworkers: Neoclassical versus new economic theories

Amelie Constant, Douglas S. Massey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

307 Scopus citations


Neoclassical economics and the new economics of labour migration posit very different motivations for international migration. The former assumes that people move abroad permanently to maximize lifetime earnings whereas the latter assumes they leave temporarily to overcome market deficiencies at home. As a result, the two models yield very different conceptualizations of return migration. We draw upon each theoretical model to derive predictions about how different variables are likely to influence the probability of return migration. We use data from the German Socio-economic Panel to test specific hypotheses derived from each model. Finding some support for both perspectives, we suggest that migrants may be heterogeneous with respect to their migratory motivations. If so, then parameters associated with the determinants of return migration in any population of international migration will reflect a blending of parameters associated with two distinct economic rationales. Equations estimated separately for remitting and non-remitting migrants lend support to this interpretation, meaning there may not be one unitary process of return migration, but several.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-38
Number of pages34
JournalInternational Migration
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography


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