Are Migrants Going up a Blind Alley? Economic Migration and Well-Being around the World: Cross-National Evidence from Europe, the United States and Canada

Analia Olgiati, Harvard University
Rocio Calvo, Boston College; Harvard Pop Center

Are migrants satisfied with their decision to move to another country? Research shows that the income-happiness relationship is weak in countries of destination. Are economic migrants mistaken? Employing data from the Gallup World Poll, we investigate whether a general pattern of association exists between income and life satisfaction, and whether this pattern differs by immigration status in 16 high-income countries. We find that only in Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden immigrants have a distinctive advantage in translating income either into global life evaluation or life satisfaction even in the fifth quintile. Immigrants in Denmark, Finland, Italy, Spain and the US have positive income-wellbeing associations at or below the third quintile, suggesting that income improves wellbeing until non-pecuniary factors associated with long-term residence become dominant. Among the foreign born in Ireland and France “frustrated achievers” are the norm, with negative income-wellbeing associations found in the top quintiles.

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Presented in Session 57: Happiness and Economic and Social Well-Being