Migrant’s Pursuit of Happiness. The Impact of Adaptation, Social Comparison and Relative Deprivation: Evidence from a "Natural" Experiment

Silvia Melzer, University of Bielefeld
Ruud Muffels, Tilburg University

The German reunification provides the unique possibility to inquire the impact of migration on subjective well-being (SWB). We suspect that the gains or losses in SWB after migration from Eastern to Western Germany are affected by the way migrants adapt to their new economic conditions, by with whom migrants compare themselves, and how well they integrate into the new society. We estimate fixed-effect GLS panel regressions using the German Socio-Economic Panel data from 1990-2008. Our results indicate a positive and lasting effect of migration on SWB, which results partly from higher incomes migrants realize. Migrants’ SWB is also much more dependent on adaptation processes and how people fare in their immediate context than on the integration into the new society. Finally, our analyses provide an explanation for the increase of SWB associated with an increase in incomes found in East Germany after the reunification; a deviation from the Easterlins’ paradox.

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Presented in Session 196: Migration and Adult Health