IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

Are Migrants Going Up a Blind Alley? Economic Migration and Life Satisfaction around the World: Cross-National Evidence from Europe, North America and Australia

  • Analia Olgiati


  • Rocio Calvo
  • Lisa Berkman
Registered author(s):

    Are migrants satisfied with their decision to move to another country? Research shows that the income-wellbeing relationship is weak in wealthy countries, usually countries of destination. Are then economic migrants mistaken? Employing data from the Gallup World Poll, a representative sample of the world population, we investigate whether a general pattern of association exists between income and the cognitive component of subjective wellbeing, and whether this pattern differs by immigration status in 16 high-income countries. In only a handful of countries do we find a distinctive immigrant advantage in translating income into higher life evaluation or life satisfaction: Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden. For immigrants in most of these countries, income increases cognitive wellbeing even in the fifth income quintile. Depending on the measure used, immigrants in Canada, Denmark, Finland, Italy and the US only have positive income-wellbeing associations at or below the third quintile. We take this as evidence that, among recent arrivals, income is positively associated with wellbeing up to the point in which non-pecuniary factors associated with long-term residence become dominant. We also find a number of “frustrated achievers” among the foreign born in the US, France and Finland. These immigrants report a negative association, in absolute value, between income and life satisfaction or life evaluation. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2013

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Article provided by Springer in its journal Social Indicators Research.

    Volume (Year): 114 (2013)
    Issue (Month): 2 (November)
    Pages: 383-404

    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:spr:soinre:v:114:y:2013:i:2:p:383-404
    Contact details of provider: Web page:

    Order Information: Web:

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

    as in new window
    1. Becchetti, Leonardo & Rossetti, Fiammetta, 2009. "When money does not buy happiness: The case of "frustrated achievers"," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 159-167, January.
    2. Attanasio, O.P. & Browning, M., 1993. "Consumption Over the Life Cycle and Over the Business Cycle," Papers 9314, Tilburg - Center for Economic Research.
    3. Martin Browning & Thomas F. Crossley, 2000. "The Life Cycle Model of Consumption and Saving," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 28, McMaster University.
    4. Karin Amit, 2010. "Determinants of Life Satisfaction Among Immigrants from Western Countries and from the FSU in Israel," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 96(3), pages 515-534, May.
    5. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2002. "What Can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 402-435, June.
    6. Heckman, James J, 1979. "Sample Selection Bias as a Specification Error," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(1), pages 153-61, January.
    7. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew J. Oswald, 2000. "Well-Being Over Time in Britain and the USA," NBER Working Papers 7487, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Hayo, Bernd & Seifert, Wolfgang, 2003. "Subjective economic well-being in Eastern Europe," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 329-348, June.
    9. Richard Ball & Kateryna Chernova, 2008. "Absolute Income, Relative Income, and Happiness," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 88(3), pages 497-529, September.
    10. David Bartram, 2011. "Economic Migration and Happiness: Comparing Immigrants’ and Natives’ Happiness Gains From Income," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 103(1), pages 57-76, August.
    11. Rafael Di Tella & John Haisken-De New & Robert MacCulloch, 2010. "Happiness Adaptation to Income and to Status in an Individual Panel," Post-Print hal-00911821, HAL.
    12. Félix Neto, 1995. "Predictors of satisfaction with life among second generation migrants," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 35(1), pages 93-116, May.
    13. Richard Easterlin, 2005. "Diminishing Marginal Utility of Income? Caveat Emptor," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 70(3), pages 243-255, 02.
    14. Alberto Palloni & Elizabeth Arias, 2004. "Paradox lost: Explaining the hispanic adult mortality advantage," Demography, Springer, vol. 41(3), pages 385-415, August.
    15. George J. Borjas, 1994. "The Economics of Immigration," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 32(4), pages 1667-1717, December.
    16. Douglas S. Massey & Ilana Redstone Akresh, 2006. "Immigrant Intentions and Mobility in a Global Economy: The Attitudes and Behavior of Recently Arrived U.S. Immigrants," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 87(s1), pages 954-971.
    17. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2008. "Relative Income, Happiness, and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(1), pages 95-144, March.
    18. Hilke Brockmann & Jan Delhey & Christian Welzel & Hao Yuan, 2009. "The China Puzzle: Falling Happiness in a Rising Economy," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 10(4), pages 387-405, August.
    19. Constant, Amelie F. & Massey, Douglas S., 2002. "Self-Selection, Earnings, and Out-Migration: A Longitudinal Study of Immigrants to Germany," IZA Discussion Papers 672, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    20. Douglas S. Massey & Ilana Redstone Akresh, 2006. "Immigrant Intentions and Mobility in a Global Economy: The Attitudes and Behavior of Recently Arrived U.S. Immigrants," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 87(5), pages 954-971.
    21. John Knight & Ramani Gunatilaka, 2010. "The Rural-Urban Divide in China: Income but Not Happiness?," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 46(3), pages 506-534.
    22. Jan Saarela & Dan-Olof Rooth, 2012. "Uncertainty and international return migration: some evidence from linked register data," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(18), pages 1893-1897, December.
    23. Ed Diener & Eunkook Suh & Heidi Smith & Liang Shao, 1995. "National differences in reported subjective well-being: Why do they occur?," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 34(1), pages 7-32, January.
    24. C. Graham & S. Pettinato, 2002. "Frustrated Achievers: Winners, Losers and Subjective Well-Being in New Market Economies," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 38(4), pages 100-140.
    25. John F. Helliwell & Christopher P. Barrington-Leigh & Anthony Harris & Haifang Huang, 2009. "International Evidence on the Social Context of Well-Being," NBER Working Papers 14720, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:spr:soinre:v:114:y:2013:i:2:p:383-404. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sonal Shukla)

    or (Christopher F Baum)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.