No place like home: Sociocultural drivers of return migration among Israeli academic families

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Research on return migration of the highly skilled is dominated by economic reasoning, whereas nonmaterial drivers of their repatriation are poorly understood. This study explored the journeys of 22 Israeli academic families who returned home after 3–7 years of (post)doctoral training in the United States/Canada. The migration narratives of these families, belonging to Israeli Ashkenazi elites, were interpreted using Bourdieu's concepts of cultural and social capital. Feeing alienated as immigrants in the American academia and society, most returnees reckoned that their professional potential could be maximised only at home. They manifested strong national identities, cultural and filial attachments and wanted their children to grow up Israeli. However, facing precarious Israeli realities, the informants described their return as second migration. Within 2 years, most scientists landed academic or research positions at home and were satisfied with their work lives. Their ‘trailing wives’ have typically paid a higher career tax for their American sojourn, yet no couples in the sample regretted their return decision. Thus, purely economic explanations of mobility among academics and other professionals may overlook salient sociocultural forces shaping family-based return decisions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2490
JournalPopulation, Space and Place
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Tal: I also met Israeli expats through my work: guys from high‐tech firms. Their relocation was sponsored by the employers and their salaries and living standards were much higher than ours. They typically lived in expensive residential towers or leafy suburbs, so we seldom crossed paths. These tech guys were usually inclined to stay in the US, and most were very critical of Israel… perhaps our different attitude to home drove us apart.

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© 2021 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


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