Returnee Entrepreneurs: A Systematic Literature Review, Thematic Analysis, and Research Agenda

Jan Henrik Gruenhagen, Per Davidsson, Sukanlaya Sawang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Returnee entrepreneurs are individuals who return to their home country to start a new venture after studying or working abroad. Such individuals are argued to be key agents of growth and innovation in emerging economies. Hence, they have attracted interest from policy-makers and scholars. Our work systematically reviews and thematically analyzes the growing but still fragmented research stream on returnee entrepreneurs. Our work identifies, examines and synthesizes this theoretically, methodologically and thematically diverse research stream by inductively categorizing it into themes and thematic areas. Based on the findings, we provide a conceptual mapping of the phenomenon and discuss promising research opportunities that address a range of key questions pertaining to returnee entrepreneurs and their importance in emerging economies. We provide a comprehensive inventory, organization and evaluation of the research stream offering guidance for the design and positioning of future scholarly enquiry in this field. Our detailed discussion of theoretical lenses and research designs also extends to potential contributions to adjacent fields and underlying theories, that is, well beyond the specific domain of returnee entrepreneurship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)310-392
Number of pages83
JournalFoundations and Trends in Entrepreneurship
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Emerging economies
  • International human mobility
  • Returnee entrepreneurs
  • Systematic literature review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics


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