Migration, Return and Socio-Economic Change in West Africa: The Role of Family


This paper seeks to analyse the influence of migrants’ families on return and the transfer of financial, human and social capital by West African migrants who have lived in Europe and North America. Based on a survey of over 600 ‘elite’ and less skilled return migrants to Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, as well as qualitative research with migrants remaining in London and Paris, the paper argues that families play an important role in return migration, remittances, and aspects of human, social and financial capital acquisition and investment. Using Cerase’s typology of return migration, the analysis seeks to discriminate between migrants whose return decisions were affected by their families – considered as ‘return of conservatism’, and those who made individual return decisions – considered as ‘return of innovation’. The findings reveal that the relationship between the type of return (and extent of family involvement in this decision), and the extent of financial, human and social capital transfers, varies between countries and across groups of migrants. Although those whose return is influenced by their families might be considered to have made more ‘conservative’ return decisions, this group was found to be more likely to have transferred financial capital to their home country, and more likely to have maintained social capital gained abroad after their return. They were also as likely as ‘innovative’ returnees to have promoted changes in family life or in the workplace. The paper concludes by exploring several policy implications.


Sussex Centre for Migration Research, University of Sussex, UK. Sussex Migration Working Paper no. 15, 20 pp.

Migration, Return and Socio-Economic Change in West Africa: The Role of Family

Published 1 January 2003