Inverting the logic of economic migration : happiness among migrants moving from wealthier to poorer countries in Europe
journal contributionposted on 21.10.2014, 12:50 by David V. S. Bartram
Migration from a poorer country to a wealthier one often results in a lower relative economic status for the migrant (even when it increases their incomes in an "absolute" sense)-and thus perhaps results also in a decrease in his/her happiness. By the same logic, migration from a wealthy country to a poorer one might bring a higher status position for the migrant and so might raise his/her happiness. This paper investigates happiness among migrants who move from northern European countries to Spain, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus, comparing them to stayers in the origin countries (Belgium, Switzerland, France, Germany, Britain, and the Netherlands). The analysis shows that migrants are less happy than stayers, in a bivariate comparison and a conventional regression model. A consideration of results from "treatment models" and matching analyses suggests that the difference represents a decrease in happiness for the migrants (and not a difference in happiness prior to migration), contrary to an expectation rooted in an anticipated increase in economic status. Migrants have lower relative incomes than stayers; when relative income is controlled, the happiness disadvantage of migrants is smaller. Controlling additionally for absolute income does not lead to further change in that difference.