Journal article


Background: Return migration is often overlooked by traditional analyses of internal migration. Why people return has received even less scrutiny. Relatively few migrants make a return move, so there is clearly something noteworthy about these people and their circumstances that trigger such a move.

Aims: This paper explores why people make return moves in Australia.

Data and methods: Migration histories were collected using semi-structured in-depth interviews; content analysis of interview transcripts was undertaken.

Results: People return for a wider range of reasons than is indicated by neoclassical economic theory. Some of the moves are linked to significant life events such as post-school education and employment. Returns also occur for less tangible factors such as amenity and climate, connections to family, friends and the extent to which a place “feels like home” are equally important.

Conclusions: A broader explanatory framework is required to explain why people return. The integration of migrant stories into more traditional migration analyses enriches the story of internal migration.

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