Diminished tradition of return? Transnational migration in Bolivia's Valle Alto



One-fifth of the Bolivian population lives abroad, and transnational behaviour strongly links their villages with destination communities. In this article we address whether the increasing difficulty of return migration (owing to legal and geographic barriers) results in diminished social and economic remittances to the country of origin. Results from a questionnaire survey of 417 households in the Valle Alto area of Cochabamba Department in 2007 reveal that monetary remittances account for one-half of the income of active migrant families (and one-quarter of income overall), and that transnational cultural ties remain strong. However, after ten years of cumulated time abroad the intention to return to Bolivia drops markedly along with economic and some social remittances. Closer analysis reveals that time abroad reduces these ties through the mediating forces of family members abroad, legal status, and home ownership abroad.