Population Space and Place pp. 1-12

Although attention has been paid to return migration internationally, research studies on why Chinese overseas doctoral graduates return to China are few. A study that considers gendered motivations has yet to be found. Using a qualitative study with 31 Chinese overseas doctoral graduate returnees, this study examines factors influencing graduates’ reasons for returning to China and how these relate to Chinese gender and gender role‐related cultural norms. Using the push‐pull theory and the concepts of gender (as an individual characteristic) and gender norms, the study shows that the reasons for return were gendered, with females motivated by family and emotional factors and males by economic and career benefits. The study identifies inequalities derived from traditional gender roles and cultural norms that persist in China. This has implications for state policy, higher education institutions and future research.