For Love and Money: Second-Generation Indian Americans in the Indian Knowledge Economy Sonali Jain



International migration flows tend to be viewed in the context of persons moving from developing to developed nations for better opportunities. However, the recent economic success of many developing countries and consequent return of immigrants to the homeland have sparked lively debates surrounding transnational mobility, identity and “reverse brain drain.” Perhaps more surprising is the “return migration” of second-generation professionals from developed nations to their parents’ homelands in emerging economies. This paper examines the puzzle of why highly skilled, second-generation Indian Americans relocate from the US to India. I argue that for second-generation Indian American returnees, available economic opportunities in the Indian economy were necessary – but not sufficient – conditions in facilitating “return.” Sufficient conditions included relocating to the ethnic homeland because they hoped to connect or reconnect with India for personal, non-economic reasons. The findings from this paper point to the emergence of an important but under-recognized phenomenon in the transnational migration literature. At least for some second-generation immigrant groups, “return” to the ancestral homeland may be a growing phenomenon, with important implications for questions of transnational mobility, belonging and ethnicity.


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