International Migration and Life Satisfaction in Europe

Monday, July 14, 2014: 4:00 PM
Room: Harbor Lounge A
Oral Presentation
David BARTRAM , University of Leicester, United Kingdom
A core finding of research on subjective wellbeing – concluding that an increase in one's income does not generally bring greater life satisfaction - suggests that economic migration (motivated by hopes of an increased income) would not result in greater life satisfaction. Income affects life satisfaction mainly via the way it signals status, and many immigrants in wealthier countries have a lower status in the destination society than in their origin society.  This paper also considers the economic migration scenario "in reverse": people who move from wealthier countries to poorer ones might attain a higher status position in the destination, relative to the status they enjoyed in their country of origin - and, if so, then perhaps they would experience an increase in life satisfaction.  The paper assesses these proposition via analysis of European Social Survey data – in the first instance investigating people moving from eastern to western Europe, and (for the second proposition) on people moving from wealthier countries in northern Europe to Mediterranean destinations such as Spain, Portugal and Greece.  In general, migrants do not appear to gain life satisfaction as a consequence of migration – and in some instances (particularly for migrants moving to a poorer country) migration appears to reduce life satisfaction.  Migrants certainly expect migration to improve their lives, but it is not clear that these expectations are generally met in their experiences.