The Imagined Return: Hope and Imagination among International Migrants from Rural Mexico (Working Paper #169)

Javier Serrano, Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, UC San Diego

Abstract: Migrants from rural Mexico usually move abroad with the idea to return once they have improved their economic situation. Although they do not always go back, Mexican migrants often plan their return before leaving. In any case, the imagined return persists for a long time in their minds. This paper analyzes the ways in which rural migrants from southern Veracruz and western Mexico imagine a better future, a future only made possible by migration. Therefore, these powerful images of a more prosperous tomorrow inspire migrants to move abroad. As an alternative to different perspectives that treat migration basically or exclusively as a demographic or economic phenomenon, I suggest that massive migration is motivated essentially by hope. And it always involves optimistic ideas about the future. From this perspective migrants are conceived with a more human face. Hope and imagination are rooted in migrants’ hometowns.

Working Paper #169 »

The Importance of Brain Return in the Brain Drain- Brain Gain Debate (Working Paper #166)

Karin Mayr, Johannes Kepler University (Linz, Austria)

Giovanni Peri, University of California, Davis and National Bureau of Economic Research

Abstract: Recent theoretical and empirical studies have emphasized the fact that the perspective of international migration increases the expected returns to skills in poor countries, linking the possibility of migrating (brain drain) with incentives to higher education (brain gain). If emigration is uncertain and some of the higly educated remain such channel may, at least in in part, counterbalance the negative effects of brain drain. Moreover recent empirical evidence seems to show that temporary migration is widespread among highly skilled migrants (such as Eastern Europeans in Western Europe and Asians in the US). This paper develops a simple tractable overlapping generations model that provides a rationale for return migration and predicts who will migrate and who returns among agents with heterogeneous abilities. We use parameter values from the literature and the data on return migration to calibrate our model and simulate and quantify the effects of increased openness on human capital and wages of the sending countries. We find that, for plausible values of the parameters, the return migration channel is very important and combined with the incentive channel reverses the brain drain into significant brain gain for the sending country.

Working Paper #166 »