Motivations of Africans to Migrate to the United States: The Influence of Returnees' Perceptions

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The increase in the number of African immigrants living the United States is receiving scholarly attention. The U.S. census datasets indicate that newly arrived immigrants from Africa now outnumber those brought here in the “waning years of slavery.” But while previous studies have argued that within the last thirty years, Africa’s economic problems related to structural adjustment programs, economic globalization, decay in health and educational structures, political instability and ethnic warfare have led to mass migration of Africans to the developed countries, including the United States; the influence of African returnees (either permanent or visiting) remains to be completely understood. The literature on African return migrants seems to have focused exclusively on returnees’ socio-economic, cultural and technological contributions to their places of origin without addressing how such returnees spur or motivate their friends and family members to migrate. In order to fill this gap in knowledge, this paper examines how and what African returnees do to reconfirm, sustain and perpetuate the myths or reality about America. This paper contends that African returnees create several perceptions of America through their mannerisms, economic success (both real and fake), and frustrations. Therefore, using a 2006 survey datasets of about 700 Nigerian undergraduates, the paper examines the types of perceptions created by returnees and whether or not those perceptions influence respondents’ desire to visit or live in America. The study adds a new dimension to the interdisciplinary study of African immigration to the United States.


Keywords: Migration, Returnees, Perceptions, Motivations, African
Stream: Sociology, Geography
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Prof. 'Dimeji Togunde

Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology, Sociology and Ethnic Studies Program, Albion College
Albion, Michigan, USA

Dr. 'Dimeji Togunde received his Ph.D. Degree from Cornell University, USA. He is Professor of Sociology and the John S. Ludington Trustees’ Professor of the Social Sciences at Albion College, Michigan. He is Chair of the Department of Anthropology/Sociology and Chair/Director of the Ethnic Studies Program. He teaches classes in family, population and environmental policies, social change & development in Africa, immigration and research methodology. One aspect of his research programs has brought to the fore new insights for understanding child labor dynamics, particularly, the contribution that child labor makes to the enculturation and training of children and to the economic survival of poor households in Nigeria. Some of his publications on child labor have appeared in West Africa Review (2005); Journal of Children & Poverty (2006); Africa Development (2006); and the International Journal of Sociology of the family (2007). His current research examines the effects of globalization and modernization on dating patterns and attitudes toward cohabitation & marriage in Nigeria. He also is co-editing a book “Across the Atlantic: African Immigrants in the United States” (with Emmanuel Yewah).

Ref: I08P0060