This paper investigates differences in transnational behaviour among generations of Turkish migrants in three domains: social (contact frequency and visiting), economic (remittances and property ownership in origin country) and political (voting). Specifically, we examined whether and how a transnational social convoy and indicators of structural and socio-cultural integration account for generational differences in transnational contact, visits, remittances and property.
We find that visiting, remitting, property ownership and voting diminish across generations (Hypothesis 1). For visiting and property ownership in Turkey, we see a linear descending pattern from G1 to G3. This may be because these behaviours are particularly important for those considering a permanent return to the origin country. Boccagni (2015) shows that assets such as houses, entrepreneurial activities or plots of land in the origin country are important if one aspires to return permanently. Maintenance on the property is done during these visits; having invested in property also imposes an obligation to go there (Van der Horst 2010). Visits can foster a connection to the country that one may someday return to, as physical presence in the longed-for place remains the gold standard in transnational contact (Mason 2004). The wish for return migration is likely to descend across generations. In fact, G2 and G3 cannot even return; they never actually migrated.
Remitting and voting descend across generations in a more differentiated manner. Scholars have disputed the linear erosion of transnational behaviours for later generations (Jones-Correa 2002). Using a generational comparative perspective, our study confirms these predominantly only second-generation targeted studies. For contact frequency, no generational differences were observed, even despite a smaller transnational convoy across generations and despite visiting behaviour diminishing linearly. This is a remarkable finding underlining the importance of “the power of being raised in a transnational social field” (Levitt 2009, 1225). As such, children of migrants are imbued with norms, practices, people, objects and know-how from ancestral homelands, enabling them to negotiate transnational lifestyles. Our results add to this much-referenced notion by indicating that this mechanism extends to later generations as well. The currently low-cost character of transnational contact via ICT might facilitate this process. Scholars have argued that ICT opportunities have altered the potential for transnational connections (Waldinger 2008).
Hypotheses 2a and 2b considered the transnational convoy; the first explanatory concept underpinning transnational behaviour. Hypothesis 2a expected earlier generations to have greater transnational convoys than later generations, which was partly supported. Although this finding may seem common knowledge, little comparative research among multiple generations and transnational network sizes has been done. Systematic analysis, such as that employed in the current study, is therefore a valuable addition to the field. Relatively many respondents of G1.5 and G2 have parents in Turkey. This possibly reflects the sampling frame: the 2000 Families study started sampling in Turkey, thereby excluding families and social networks who emigrated in their entirety and stayed in Europe. Hypothesis 2b, the greater the transnational convoy, the more transnational behaviour, was not supported. We captured the transnational convoy by parents and close people living in the origin country. According to the convoy model of social relations (Kahn and Antonucci 1980), they are, together with other immediate family members, closest to the focal person. There may be other close relationships in the origin country that are imperative for transnational behaviour that we did not detect. Another explanation could be found in ‘place belongingness’ (Antonsich 2010). In addition to people, memories of a certain place can provide belonging, which is why people may engage in transnational behaviours. For instance, childhood playgrounds or ancestors’ former houses may be crucial to people’s personal histories. These sources of transnational behaviours were beyond the scope of this study. Because the transnational convoy had no meaning in determining transnational behaviour, differences in transnational convoy size were not able to illuminate generational differences in cross-border activities.
Hypotheses 3a and 3b investigated the effect of structural integration on transnational behaviour and formed the second explanation to understand generational differences in transnational behaviour. Hypothesis 3a expected that later generations are more structurally integrated than earlier generations and was partially supported. Pertaining to Hypothesis 3b, we find that indicators of structural integration increase (the likelihood of) some transnational behaviours. We find this for indicators of financial resources, not for educational level. This is unsurprising, as two indicators of economic transnational behaviour (remitting and property ownership) were impacted by financial resources and one of social transnational behaviour (visiting). The latter also requires financial means because of travel and staying costs. Zooming into the dynamics undergirding these findings lays bare some of the complexity involved in generational comparisons. In G1, few people have a job, whereas many people in other generations work; meanwhile, visits are highest in G1. G1’s unemployed respondents are apparently similar to the other generations’ employed respondents when it regards visiting Turkey. This seems to indicate that structural resources are more important for later generations in predicting visiting frequency than for G1. However, this conclusion may be farfetched: G1’s structural integration is, possibly, to a lesser extent caught by indicators used than other generations’. We used information on educational level, employment status and owning property in the residence country. Income is at the heart of structural resources. Yet, information on peoples’ income was left out of analyses because of missing data that were unaccounted for. Especially for G1, employment status as a proxy for income might not apply because most of them are retired. We are thus reluctant to conclude that structural integration is more important for later than for earlier generations in steering transnational behaviour. Comparing generations at non-similar ages inevitably results in some issues regarding the distribution of variables, as age effects are found among many aspects of life (Safi 2017). Only cohort-sequential analysis may resolve this problem, but data collection enabling such a design is long-lasting and costly, and hitherto unavailable. The 2000 Families Survey provides us with more possibilities to allow generational comparisons than other data.
A last theoretical clue highlighted the role of socio-cultural integration. We found support for Hypothesis 4a: socio-cultural integration into residence society was more developed for later than for earlier generations. Although scholars have advocated for the coexistence of integration into residence society and transnational connections (Erdal and Oeppen 2013), our results lend some support for more socio-cultural integration to weaken transnational participation (Hypothesis 4b). Prior studies yielded similar findings (Cela et al. 2013; Fokkema et al. 2012). The positive effects of religious attendance is contrary to the idea of ethnic social networks in the residence country superseding the need or longing for the country of origin. Quite the opposite, often going to the mosque intensifies contact frequency and probability of remittance sending. A complementary mechanism may be at work (Snel et al. 2006): relationships with people with similar migration backgrounds might install a yearning for a country (and its inhabitants) left behind—although perhaps by forefathers. Thus, embedding in the migrant community in the residence country reinforces transnational behaviour, rather than ‘replacing’ it. Yet, another explanation for the effect of religious attendance on remittance sending is viable: remitting to the origin country can be a means of Islamic alms giving (Erdal 2012). Though the effect of religious attendance on transnational contact may also be an expression of piety, for the association between connectivity with residence country nationals and visits, an alternative explanation is less obvious. We therefore conclude, based on our results, that we cannot simply disregard a negative influence of socio-cultural integration on transnational behaviour.
We found that generations differed in their levels of integration and that both indicators of structural and socio-cultural integration influenced transnational behaviours. This resulted in an improved understanding of why G1.5 and G3 differ in their visiting behaviour. If they were employed to the same extent and if they had equal feelings of connectivity to residence country nationals, their number of visits to Turkey would be alike. However, it seems puzzling that we were unable to explain further generational differences and to illuminate what generation means when we observe generational differences in transnational behaviour. Perhaps the differences between generations or effects of independent variables were not strong enough to stay afloat in a pooled sample. There may also be contrary mechanisms being at work in different generations (Safi 2017), ultimately defusing the outlined mechanisms. As discussed above, the distance between concepts (structural and socio-cultural integration) and indicators is relatively large. Though studies have investigated the interaction between integration and transnational engagements, the field is not theoretically mature (Erdal and Oeppen 2013). Improved operationalisation and theoretical persuasiveness are required to better explain the differential impact of integration on transnational behaviours across generations.
Conceptual ambiguity and a lack of clear, tested indicators also apply to the concept of transnational behaviour. It is illustrative that our indicators correlate only in a negligible way. Others have also questioned ‘transnational behaviour’ as a concept. For instance, (Waldinger (2008), 24) states: “As a rule, cross-border activities and exchanges do not cluster together”. There may even be a compensatory or amplifying mechanism between two or more of these behaviours. We did not unravel these processes and suggest future research investigates how different transnational behaviours relate to each other.
We find that residence countries are important to control for. Transnational behaviours are, even with the effect of integration held constant, partly dependent on residence country. In this paper, we did not aim to test how transnational behaviours vary by residence country. As also no clear pattern in importance of residence countries is detected, no further discussion is devoted to these findings.
There are a few other issues demanding consideration. We only studied men, not women. The gendered impact of transnational convoys on transnational behaviours has, to the best of our knowledge, not been extensively studied. Some previous studies suggest that the effect of perceived social distance to the settlement society on transnational behaviour is greater for men than for women, in first generation migrants (Itzigsohn and Giorguli-Saucedo 2005). In that same study, the impact of structural integration on transnational practices was greater for women than for men. In a study on the second generation, the effect of structural integration on return intentions were positive for men while negative for women, but no significant differences were found for transnational behaviours (Bachmeier et al. 2013). These studies suggest that there are gendered dynamics in transnational behaviours, and that these are dependent on generation. Our results are therefore only generalizable for Turkish men living in Europe, and, due to the sampling method, only for those with family living in Turkey. As Turkish migrants are known to be highly transnational (Ehrkamp 2005), we also emphasize the particularity of the findings here and are reserved in generalizing to other populations.
The way we drew our generations from the data also requires some attention. From a migratory point of view, our G3 sample consists of second-generation migrants and third generation migrants, which are conceivably incomparable (Rumbaut 2004). However, we know that for all G3 respondents their grandfather was the first migrant to Europe in their family and not their parent(s). This makes the ‘second generation’ label also not fully applicable to them. In addition, the 2000 Families study is a family study; therefore, we followed the data structure and did not distinguish between the two types of the demographic third generation.
External voting is a prominent indicator of transnational political engagement (Boccagni et al. 2016) and provides us with an understanding of generational differences in transnational political behaviour. Though important, it is a rather lean operationalisation of transnational political engagement. Using secondary data, we were unable to incorporate other modes of political organisation, such as membership in a political party in the origin country, active involvement in political campaigns or membership in hometown civic associations (Guarnizo et al. 2003).
In conclusion, our contribution to the field of transnational behaviours is fivefold. First, we provided insight into which and how transnational behaviours wane across generations and which do not, for the population under study. It is a notable finding that transnational contact with friends or relatives has not changed across generations. For visiting and property ownership we see a more or less linear shaped decline across generations, while this is different for voting and remitting. This underscores the suggestion that different generations employ different constellations of transnational behaviours (Safi 2017). Second, to gain a more established understanding of the drivers of transnational behaviours, we added to research showing that structural integration is associated with more transnational behaviour (Carling and Hoelscher 2013; Fokkema et al. 2012; Tamaki 2011). We showed that this is the case across generations, not only among first- or second-generation migrants. Third, our findings contrast with an emerging line of reasoning in which scholars suggest that socio-cultural integration is independent of transnational behaviours (Carling and Hoelscher 2013; Snel et al. 2006). Two of the four indicators we employed for socio-cultural integration impact – to different degrees – transnational behaviours. Moreover, connectivity with residence country nationals can be held partially accountable for annulling the difference between G1.5 and G3 in our sample. Future research should theorise more on exactly which forms of socio-cultural integration are independent of transnational behaviours and for whom. Fourth, our findings suggest a larger role for integration to associate transnational behaviours than the transnational convoy. Apparently, one’s relationship with the residence country is more important for transnational behaviour than relationships with close others in the origin country. To the best of our knowledge, previous research has not specifically focused on the relationships between the social convoy and integration on the one hand and transnational behaviours on the other. We lack sufficient insights to interpret this finding further. We suggest, however, that it merits future scholarly attention. Fifth, in a more generic sense, by investigating one of Europe’s largest migrant populations’ successive generations, this study aids in describing the change in patterns of integration and transnational behaviours in Europe (Ryder 1965). We detected changes in transnational social convoys, in integration and in transnational behaviour. Nonetheless, our conclusion is that migrant offspring lives, until the third generation, continue to be shaped by factors both “here” and “there”.