Colombian return migration, 1980-1985: Patterns of self-employment, dwelling tenure, size, and quality

Gianni Agostinelli, Fordham University


This study centers on the comparative analysis of major socioeconomic differentials between Colombian nonmigrants and international migrants who returned home between 1980 and 1985. It explores returnees' economic behavior, inquires whether they have better housing conditions and higher self-employment rates, and tests whether the estimated differentials result from dissimilarities in human capital endowments or from the migration background. After a presentation of the genesis, evolution and trends of Colombian international migration this study addresses the issue of return migration in general and its role within the entire migration cycle. Moreover, the return migration theories and empirical evidence from previous studies were discussed. The gap between the expected and the de facto returnees' economic performance, the lack of theoretical consensus, and the inability of the major competing migration theories (equilibrium and structural perspectives) to explain the recurrent finding of returnees' propensity to elect housing improvement and self-employment as final goals of their migratory endeavor required a new conceptual scenario. A Weberian approach was adopted and returnees' economic praxis was defined as the result of a sui generis sequence of meaningful and instrumentally rational economic actions oriented to the attainment of desired utilities and motivated by a noncapitalist mentality. After controlling for a number of socio-demographic and economic factors considered relevant by structural theories, microeconornic model of consumer choice, household strategies' perspective, cost-benefit calculations, and human capital approaches, we found support for hypotheses. The results of the multivariate analysis suggest that returnee status only slightly increases the chance to be self-employed and to reside in a spacious and higher quality home, but it is unrelated to the probability of home ownership. Findings point to the need for further research on the impact of the socioeconomic opportunity structure of both the country of migration and the region where returnees settle.

Subject Area

Labor economics|Statistics|Demographics

Recommended Citation

Agostinelli, Gianni, "Colombian return migration, 1980-1985: Patterns of self-employment, dwelling tenure, size, and quality" (1999). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9926913.