A University of Leicester sociologist has investigated whether
people who migrate to a different country for more money are in fact happier –
and the answer might make potential migrants think twice before packing their
bags. Most migrants were no happier after migration.
Migrants versus 'stayers'
In a paper published in Migration
Studies, Dr David Bartram analyses data from the European Social Survey
of more than 42 000 people to try and determine whether happiness can be gained
by moving to another country.
Dr Bartram's research compared the happiness of migrants to
the happiness of people remaining in the country the migrants had left
"Migrants from eastern Europe do not appear to have
gained happiness via migration to western Europe. Migrants are happier than
stayers - but the analysis suggests that migrants were already happier than
stayers, even prior to migration. So, the happiness advantage of migrants
doesn't emerge as a consequence of migration; that advantage was already
present before migration," he said.
"In general, research on happiness indicates that
people don't make lasting gains in happiness when they gain an increase in
their incomes", said Dr Bartram.
"Migrants, however, might be able to increase their
incomes quite a lot by moving to a wealthier country. Even if they do, though,
they might end up in a lower 'relative' position in the destination country –
and relative position usually matters more for happiness than one's 'spending
power' or 'absolute income'."
Dr Bartram, of the Department of Sociology, found that
migrants from Eastern Europe as a whole do not appear to have gained happiness
by migrating to Western Europe. However, it depends on where the migrant comes
He said: "If average happiness is quite low in the
origin country such as Russia and Turkey, then an increase in happiness would
likely occur. However, for a country such as Poland where people are generally
happier (at least in comparison to Russia, for example), there appears to be
decrease in happiness for those who go to Western Europe."
Dr Bartram explains that his research is important for those
who are considering migrating to a wealthier country in order to try and gain
income and become happier.
"It raises the possibility that people who think life
is better in wealthier countries – and who thus go to a wealthier county to
try and improve their own lives – might be disappointed by what they experience