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Does Migration Make You Happy? A Longitudinal Study of Internal Migration and Subjective Well-Being

Listed author(s):
  • Beata Nowok

    (ESRC Centre for Population Change, Department of Geography and Sustainable Development, University of St Andrews, Irvine Building, North Street, St Andrews KY16 9AL, Scotland)

  • Maarten van Ham

    (OTB Research Institute for the Built Environment, Delft University of Technology, PO Box 5030, 2600 GA Delft, The Netherlands and University of St Andrews, Scotland and IZA Bonn, Germany)

  • Allan M Findlay

    (ESRC Centre for Population Change, Department of Geography and Sustainable Development, University of St Andrews, Irvine Building, North Street, St Andrews KY16 9AL, Scotland)

  • Vernon Gayle

    (ESRC Centre for Population Change, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, Chrystal Macmillan Building, 15a George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LD, Scotland)

The majority of quantitative studies on the consequences of internal migration focus almost exclusively on the labour-market outcomes and the material well-being of migrants. We investigate whether individuals who migrate within the UK become happier after the move than they were before, and whether the effect is permanent or transient. Using life-satisfaction responses from twelve waves of the British Household Panel Survey and employing a fixed-effects model, we derive a temporal pattern of migrants' subjective well-being around the time of the migration event. Our findings make an original contribution by revealing that, on average, migration is preceded by a period when individuals experience a significant decline in happiness for a variety of reasons, including changes in personal living arrangements. Migration itself causes a boost in happiness, and brings people back to their initial levels. The research contributes, therefore, to advancing an understanding of migration in relation to set-point theory. Perhaps surprisingly, long-distance migrants are at least as happy as short-distance migrants despite the higher social and psychological costs involved. The findings of this paper add to the pressure to retheorize migration within a conceptual framework that accounts for social well-being from a life-course perspective.

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File URL: http://epn.sagepub.com/content/45/4/986.abstract
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Article provided by in its journal Environment and Planning A.

Volume (Year): 45 (2013)
Issue (Month): 4 (April)
Pages: 986-1002

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Handle: RePEc:sae:envira:v:45:y:2013:i:4:p:986-1002
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