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

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  • Analia Olgiati
  • Rocio Calvo
  • Lisa Berkman

Abstract

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

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  • Analia Olgiati & Rocio Calvo & Lisa Berkman, 2013. "Are Migrants Going Up a Blind Alley? Economic Migration and Life Satisfaction around the World: Cross-National Evidence from Europe, North America and Australia," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 114(2), pages 383-404, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:soinre:v:114:y:2013:i:2:p:383-404
    DOI: 10.1007/s11205-012-0151-4
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    2. Zsóka Kóczán, 2016. "(Why) are immigrants unhappy?," IZA Journal of Migration and Development, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 5(1), pages 1-25, December.
    3. Manchin, Miriam & Orazbayev, Sultan, 2018. "Social networks and the intention to migrate," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 360-374.
    4. Rosa M. Soriano-Miras & Antonio Trinidad-Requena & Jorge Guardiola, 2020. "The Well-Being of Moroccan Immigrants in Spain: A Composite Indicator," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 148(2), pages 635-653, April.
    5. Arthur Grimes & Dennis Wesselbaum, 2018. "Moving towards happiness," Working Papers 18_07, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research.
    6. Hilary I. Okagbue & Pelumi E. Oguntunde & Sheila A. Bishop & Patience I. Adamu & Elvir M. Akhmetshin & Chukwuemeka O. Iroham, 2021. "Significant Predictors of Henley Passport Index," Journal of International Migration and Integration, Springer, vol. 22(1), pages 21-32, March.
    7. Sung Soo Lim, 2018. "Aspirations of Migrants and Returns to Human Capital Investment," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 138(1), pages 317-334, July.
    8. Huong Le & Zhou Jiang & Ingrid Nielsen, 2018. "Cognitive Cultural Intelligence and Life Satisfaction of Migrant Workers: The Roles of Career Engagement and Social Injustice," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 139(1), pages 237-257, August.
    9. Mengkai Chen & Yidong Wu & Guiwen Liu & Xianzhu Wang, 2020. "City economic development, housing availability, and migrants' settlement intentions: Evidence from China," Growth and Change, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(3), pages 1239-1258, September.
    10. Kiyoshi Yonemoto, 2021. "Reference-dependent preference and interregional migration: extending the Harris–Todaro model," Letters in Spatial and Resource Sciences, Springer, vol. 14(1), pages 1-10, April.
    11. Rocío Calvo & Felix Cheung, 2018. "Does Money Buy Immigrant Happiness?," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 19(6), pages 1657-1672, August.
    12. Chenevier, Randall & Piper, Alan T. & Willis, Craig, 2021. "Migration, crime and life satisfaction in Chile: Pre and post-migration evidence," MPRA Paper 106502, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    13. David Bartram, 2015. "Inverting the Logic of Economic Migration: Happiness Among Migrants Moving from Wealthier to Poorer Countries in Europe," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 16(5), pages 1211-1230, October.
    14. Liliya Leopold & Thomas Leopold & Clemens M. Lechner, 2017. "Do Immigrants Suffer More From Job Loss? Unemployment and Subjective Well-being in Germany," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 54(1), pages 231-257, February.
    15. Thomas Vroome & Marc Hooghe, 2014. "Life Satisfaction among Ethnic Minorities in the Netherlands: Immigration Experience or Adverse Living Conditions?," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 15(6), pages 1389-1406, December.

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