Migrants worldwide 9 percent happier after moving abroad
The 250 million international migrants across the globe have become on average 9 percent happier following migration. Migrants who moved from Sub-Saharan Africa to Western Europe experience the largest gain in happiness: 29 percent.
These findings, reported in the World Happiness Report 2018, are based on interviews with 36,000 first-generation migrants from more than 150 countries.
Migration has not made all migrants happier. For example, some 750,000 migrants who left behind Western Europe to live in Central or Eastern Europe generally do not perceive to have better lives after migration. Those who move between the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand also typically do not see a happiness benefit. These findings imply that migration particularly brings happiness for migrants who move to more developed countries. However, there are migration flows between similarly developed countries in which migrants do benefit from migration. For instance, United Kingdom migrants who moved to Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand generally evaluate their lives at least 9 percent more positively after their move.
Nearly 90 percent of migrants’ happiness gain is already experienced within the first five years after migration. The happiness of international migrants generally does not further improve following those first five years. “This is perhaps surprising because most migrants perceive migration as an investment in their future; they typically expect their well-being to improve over time after overcoming initial hurdles, such as learning the language and rebuilding their social lives,“ said study lead author Dr Martijn Hendriks. “Migrants gradually evaluate their conditions in the host country through a more critical lens. For example, migrants may experience decreasing satisfaction with their income because they compare their income more to that of the typically better off native-born population as their length of stay in the host country progresses,” according to Hendriks.
The study additionally shows that migrants across the globe experience approximately 5 percent more positive emotions such as enjoyment and laughter and 7 percent less negative emotions such as worry and sadness due to migration. These findings show that international migration is, for many people, a powerful instrument to change their lives.