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23-06-2021

The cultural and structural motivations of cheap mobility: The case of retirement migrants in Spain and Costa Rica

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Abstract

Retirement migration is an increasingly common phenomenon. It involves the relocation of retirees from richer countries of the global North to places in the world where the costs of living are lower. In contrast from most other migrants, these retirees do not generally relocate to find more work opportunities. Aeromobility, namely frequent air travel, is a key aspect of their ability to be geographically mobile, which social scientists often depict as reflecting the economic advantages and consumerist culture of a new generation of older people. In addition, some experts consider older people’s carbon footprint to be particularly large due to their economic advantages and lack of ecological values (e.g., see Haq et al., 2010). The literature on retirement migration scarcely focuses on the role that aeromobility—particularly cheap flights—plays in retirement migrants’ decision to relocate and their experiences after migration.

Using the cases of retirement migrants in Spain and Costa Rica, this article aims to better understand why some retired citizens of richer countries engage in lifestyles based on high-frequency travel, particularly when their migration is driven by the search for more economic security. To answer this question, we argue that values alone do not sufficiently explain social practices and individual decision-making, including the seeming prioritisation of mobility over sustainability.
 

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Marion Repetti; Jennifer L.Lawrence