The grass might be greener on the other side of the border. But that does not make people happier.
The grass might not be greener on the other side of the border, a new study from the University of Leicester has found.
Economic migrants travelling to different shores for greater income could be set for disappointment – because the pursuit of wealth does not equate with happiness.
Sociologist Dr David Bartram carried out the study: "Economic Migration and Happiness: Comparing Immigrants' and Natives' Happiness Gains from Income." It was published by Social Indicators Research online on 27th August and will be printed next year.
He sought to establish whether those people who were motivated by higher incomes in a wealthy country actually gain greater happiness via migration. He also examined whether these economic migrants might have exaggerated expectations about what they will achieve and experience, such that there is some significant disappointment.
Money can't buy you happiness. This is consistent with a wider body of research literature that shows rising living standards do not increase general levels of happiness. Given the important role that relative status plays in determining happiness I do not find these results surprising. Rising living standards still leave lots of people feeling low status. I see the instinctive desire for higher status as one of the major unsolved problems of Western societies.
Aside: Communism did not begin to solve the status problem. Communist societies created new status hierarchies based on other criteria. But even if communism could somehow have made everyone equal in status that would not have made people feel good as people want higher status. They experience less stress and live longer if they have higher status.
Dr Bartram, of the Department of Sociology, said: "The study of happiness tells us that people generally do not gain greater happiness from earning higher incomes – which suggests that migrants might be mistaken in believing that they will be better off if they can move to a wealthy country.
But open borders libertarians want people to be happy as a result of migration. These migrants are letting down the libertarians. Someone tell the migrants they've got to try harder to be happy for the sake of libertarianism.
Rising aspirations cancel out the psychological benefits of having more money.
"The results suggest that economic migrants might well experience disappointment. Migrants do gain happiness from higher incomes, to a greater extent than natives – but the relationship is weak even for migrants. In fact, it also works out that migrants are less happy than natives. The probable reason is that they expect to be happier by virtue of earning the greater incomes available in a wealthy country - but they end up wanting even more after they get there: aspirations probably increase at least as much as incomes.
If the offspring of immigrants are not going to make as much on average as the existing native population then those offspring will be less happy than their parents. At least the parents still have the reference point of the poverty they experienced in the old country. But the kids born in the new country will calibrate their relative well being against the native population of the new country. The most relevant group for the United States are Hispanic immigrants and their income and wealth gap with whites is not closing. So their children and grandchildren will compare themselves to more affluent whites around them and will be unhappy as a result.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2010 September 06 10:09 AM Economics Trade|