Happiness and ‘Economic Migration’: A Comparison of Eastern European Migrants and Stayers

32 Pages Posted: 27 Feb 2013

Date Written: December 12, 2012


In a conventional/common-sense perspective, one would expect economic migrants to experience an increase in happiness as a consequence of migration: life in wealthier countries might be better, particularly for migrants who succeed in improving their financial situation. From the perspective of 'happiness studies', however, migration motivated by the prospect of economic gain is perhaps a misguided endeavor. In general, people do not gain happiness from an increase in their incomes, and migration as a means of gaining an increased income might not amount to an exception to that general pattern. This paper explores happiness among migrants and stayers in a number of European countries, investigating individuals from eastern European countries who went to western Europe. Migrants generally appear to be happier than those who have remained in the countries of origin – but there is evidence that this difference is the result of a greater tendency towards migration among people with higher levels of happiness (thus not a matter of happiness increasing as a consequence of migration). In addition, there is significant variation by country: migrants from Russia, Turkey and Romania are happier than stayers, but migrants from Poland are significantly less happy than stayers. Models that determine whether a correction for endogeneity is necessary suggest that those country-level differences represent increases and decreases (respectively) in happiness.

Keywords: migration, happiness, subjective well-being, Europe

JEL Classification: I31, D31, J61

Suggested Citation

Bartram, David, Happiness and ‘Economic Migration’: A Comparison of Eastern European Migrants and Stayers (December 12, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2225679 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2225679

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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