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Migration as a test of the happiness set‐point hypothesis: Evidence from immigration to Canada and the United Kingdom

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  • John F. Helliwell
  • Hugh Shiplett
  • Aneta Bonikowska

Abstract

Strong versions of the set‐point hypothesis argue that subjective well‐being measures reflect primarily each individual's own personality and that deviations are temporary. International migration provides an excellent test, since life circumstances and subjective well‐being differ greatly among countries. With or without adjustments for selection effects, the levels and distributions of immigrant life‐satisfaction scores for immigrants to the United Kingdom and Canada from up to 100 source countries mimic those in their destination countries, and even the destination regions within those countries, rather than those in their source countries, showing that subjective life evaluations are substantially driven by life circumstances and respond when those circumstances change. L’immigration comme test de la théorie des seuils de bonheur : l’exemple du Canada et du Royaume‐Uni. Les principaux tenants de la théorie des seuils de bonheur " font valoir que les évaluations subjectives du bien‐être reflètent essentiellement la personnalité de chaque individu, et que les dérogations à ces seuils ne sont que temporaires. L’immigration internationale offre un excellent moyen de mettre cette théorie à l’épreuve étant donné que les circonstances de vie ainsi que le bien‐être subjectif varient considérablement d’un pays à l’autre. Avec ou sans ajustements relatifs à l’effet de sélection, les niveaux et la distribution des taux de satisfaction face à la vie des immigrants originaires de 100 pays au Royaume‐Uni et au Canada sont davantage semblables à ceux de ces deux pays, voire à ceux des régions de destination à l’intérieur même de ces deux pays, qu’à ceux de leur pays d’origine. Cela montre que les évaluations subjectives de la vie sont en grande partie liées aux circonstances de la vie, et s’adaptent lorsque ces circonstances changent.

Suggested Citation

  • John F. Helliwell & Hugh Shiplett & Aneta Bonikowska, 2020. "Migration as a test of the happiness set‐point hypothesis: Evidence from immigration to Canada and the United Kingdom," Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue canadienne d'économique, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 53(4), pages 1618-1641, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:canjec:v:53:y:2020:i:4:p:1618-1641
    DOI: 10.1111/caje.12474
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Anthony Edo & Lionel Ragot & Hillel Rapoport & Sulin Sardoschau & Andreas Steinmayr & Arthur Sweetman, 2020. "An introduction to the economics of immigration in OECD countries," Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue canadienne d'économique, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 53(4), pages 1365-1403, November.

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