Migration, Return, and Happiness: On Seeking One’s Fortune in a Wealthier Country

30 Pages Posted: 7 Jan 2011 Last revised: 5 Jan 2012

Date Written: January 4, 2012


Research on happiness finds that rising incomes do not generally lead to increases in happiness. This finding suggests that economic migration – i.e., migration motivated by the prospect of increased income – might not bring greater happiness: when economic migrants believe that migration will improve their lives, that belief might be mistaken at least insofar as “improvement” is conceived in terms related to happiness. Perhaps economic migration even results in lower happiness, if it involves sacrifices in other respects that are more consequential for happiness. This paper explores these propositions via comparison of returned Romanian migrants to Romanian non-migrants (using data from the European Social Survey) and finds that migrants report lower happiness than non-migrants (controlling for other variables). The cross-sectional analysis cannot directly answer questions about the consequences of migration and return – there are no data on the migrants’ happiness prior to migration. But the analysis sharpens the questions that might be asked in future research and considers how various scenarios would (and would not) be consistent with the findings produced here.

Keywords: international migration, happiness, return migration

JEL Classification: F22, D31, J61

Suggested Citation

Bartram, David, Migration, Return, and Happiness: On Seeking One’s Fortune in a Wealthier Country (January 4, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1735367 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1735367

David Bartram (Contact Author)

University of Leicester ( email )

University Road
Leicester, LE1 7RH
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.le.ac.uk/sociology/db158/

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