Emigrants and Temporary Guest Workers - A different perspective on the Swedish-American migration 1880-1910
The general view of the Swedish-American emigration is based on the notion that most emigrants left Sweden for permanent settlement in the United States. Evidence also suggests that this conventional view of Swedish emigration corresponds to the factual situation of the first large Swedish emigration wave during the famine period in the 1860’s and early 1870s, when entire families and even larger groups of people from specific regions decided to try a new start as farmers or settlers in the New World. Over time this dominant trend of permanent emigration of families and groups changed. In the 1860s more than 60 percent of the emigrants were married couples and their children. By the turn of the century this proportion had fallen to 20 percent and the ratio of unmarried young men and women had doubled (80 percent). Both age and gender composition from 1880 to 1910 were characterized by a majority of young men, travelling alone or in groups, part of them returning home after a period. There were as well indications of individuals repeating emigration and return migration cycles for long time periods. The research hypothesis of this thesis is that for some Swedish-American emigrants during the period of mass emigration, temporary work migration was a plan for funding possible future investments at home, and that remitting funds to Sweden in part was motivated by self-interest and the intention to return. To find support for this, I emphasize a purpose-adaptation of the Implicit Family Loan Agreement theory and the intention to return as the two main components of this plan. The conclusion of the study is that both modern theory and historic evidence support the research hypothesis. The quantitative analysis also confirms the conclusion of the research question that the extent of emigrants returning home effected the flow of remittances during the studied period. The basic material in this area is extensive. More studies of records of land acquisitions in connection with returning migrants, records of inheritance and ownership transfers of farms in migrant families etc. could undoubtedly widen knowledge about the benefit of temporary migration for individual returnees and their families, and for the regional development as well as the aggregated effect of remittances for development following the Swedish emigration episode.