CANCELLED: SGDE Colloquium - Yining Tan

UPDATE: In light of this week’s events, we have decided to cancel today’s Colloquium talk and instead leave this space to gather, share, reflect or mourn for those who want to.

Im/mobility of Skilled U.S. Migrants in China: A Capital-mobility Framework

Yining Tan
Assistant Professor of Practice, School of Geography, Development & Environment
University of Arizona


Increasing globalization and the knowledge-based economy creates a higher-than-ever demand for skilled migrant labor. While Global North countries are the traditional destinations for skilled migrants, Global South countries have recently joined the race for such talent. The conventional migration scholarship does not adequately explain the increasing Global-North-to-South skilled migration.  

This research fills the gap by studying mobility and its underlying factors for skilled U.S. migrants in the Pearl River Delta region of China. Using data from semi-structured interviews, this paper develops a capital-mobility framework. I argue that migrants’ im/mobility outcomes are shaped by their aspirations to move, and the accumulation, transferability and convertibility of various forms of capital. While the migrants’ capital was smoothly transferred to China and facilitated their voluntary mobility, the continued accumulation of capital in China could not be fully transferred to the U.S. upon their return, thus causing involuntary immobility. Although they mostly had little intention of staying in China permanently, the COVID-19 accelerated their return. This study discusses the differences between North-to-South and South-to-North skilled migration and provides policy recommendations for attracting and retaining skilled international migrants. 


Yining Tan is an Assistant Professor of Practice in the School of Geography and Development at the University of Arizona. Tan’s foci of research are urban geography, human mobility, highly-skilled international migration and transnational connections. Her dissertation develops a capital-mobility framework and employs intersectionality theory to examine the impacts of skilled U.S. migrants’ capital and intentionality on both (cross-border and everyday) spatial mobility as well as occupational and social mobility in China. Beyond the dissertation, she also worked on research that addresses the challenge of how to make cities more equitable in economic development, urban built environment, and socio-cultural integration. Her work has been published in journals including Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Asian Geographer, International Migration, and International Development Policy.   

Yining Tan obtained her bachelor’s degree from Sun Yat-sen University in China, a Master of Planning degree from University of Southern California, and will be awarded a doctoral degree in geography from Arizona State University.  

ENR2 Building, Room S445
Refreshments starting at 3:00pm
Talk starting at 3:30pm


3:30 p.m. Oct. 7, 2022

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