‘For a Better Life’? The Role of Networks in Social (Im)Mobility after Return to Albania

Release date: 2023-04

This article addresses the question of what influences the opportunities for social mobility in the context of return migration to Albania from a meso-level perspective. It applies a network-theory-based analysis to 104 qualitative interviews with a diverse sample of returned migrants, conducted in Albania between 2019 and 2022. The interviews are clustered into three categories according to the stated economic need for migration. The analysis shows that the geographical dispersion, the support capacities and the influence of these networks on migration decision-making differ significantly between the three categories. Despite some dynamics, individual network embeddedness reflects the overall socio-economic and ethno-political stratifications of the origin society and distinctively shapes migrants’ modalities and means of migration, the opportunities for resource accumulation abroad and their ability to re-establish themselves after return. Thus, social networks mainly contribute to continuity rather than change in terms of social stratification, even over the course of migration(s) and return(s). Yet, these effects are mediating, not determining, outcomes and are context-dependent. Lastly, network effects differ not only between but also within the categories, depending, for example, on the gender or age of the migrant.

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