Does migration make you happy? A longitudinal study of internal migration and subjective well-being

Beata Nowok, University of St Andrews
Maarten van Ham, Delft University of Technology
Allan Findlay, University of St Andrews
Vernon Gayle, University of St Andrews

People migrate for a variety of reasons but most expect to be better off after migration. We investigate whether individuals who migrate within the UK actually become happier and, if yes, when and for how long. Thus we extend research conducted to date on migration impacts which has focused almost exclusively on the labour market outcomes and material well-being of migrants. Using life satisfaction responses from 12 waves of the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) we observe year-to-year changes in individuals’ level of life satisfaction both prior and after migration events. A temporal pattern of migrants’ happiness is derived employing a fixed-effects model. The analysis is conducted separately for men and women. The latter are often trailing spouses who sacrifice their labour-market outcome for the benefit of the household as a whole. At the same time, however, men and women may be affected differently by their labour and non-labour market gains and losses. We find evidence of significant changes in happiness around the time of migration. Migration is preceded by a considerable drop in life satisfaction. After migration people bounce back to their original happiness level. Nonetheless the positive effect of migration is transient and the life satisfaction drops steadily in the years after a migration event. Unlike in the case of labour market implications of migration, life satisfaction trajectories are remarkably similar between men and women.

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Presented in Session 76: Linkages between internal and international migration