The quest for lifestyle: Reverse family migration among Hong Kong returnee parents

Lucille Lok Sun NGAN, Kit Wa Anita CHAN

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Existing analyses of lifestyle in migration studies have focused on individual, rather than family, aspirations, while studies of Chinese transnational migration have focused on instrumentalism, rather than the quality-of-life factors, driving family migration. Moreover, these two fields of study have tended to center on the privileges of relatively affluent migrants, largely overlooking important familial and economic dimensions for middle- and upper-middle-class migrants. Drawing on 38 in-depth interviews with returnee parents from Hong Kong who have migrated back to their previous places of residence in the West or have plans to do so, this article addresses these gaps by examining reverse family migration considerations. We identify the aspiration for a better quality of life for the family, rather than for the self, as the dominant driver of migration. We find that returnee parents’ main frames of reference for considering how and where to live were shaped by interactions between their children's education, economic factors, transnational mobility, and imaginary and emotional aspects of migration. Our analysis shows the value of engaging with lifestyle in efforts to understand reverse migration among Chinese families. More broadly, this article contributes to better understanding of migration motivation by drawing attention to family-centered lifestyle aspirations and the coexistence of privilege and precarity among relatively affluent middling migrants, areas that have been insufficiently explored in research on Chinese transnational migration and lifestyle migration. Copyright © 2023 The Author(s).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)94-116
JournalInternational Migration Review
Issue number1
Early online dateFeb 2023
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


Ngan, L. L. S., & Chan, A. K.-W. (2024). The quest for lifestyle: Reverse family migration among Hong Kong returnee parents. International Migration Review, 58(1), 94-116.


  • Chinese family migration
  • Middling migrants
  • Lifestyle migration


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