Academic journal article Migration Letters

SURVEY/DATA: The European Migrant Experience

Academic journal article Migration Letters

SURVEY/DATA: The European Migrant Experience

Article excerpt


The experience of migrants living in 15 European countries was examined across major life domains: Subjective wellbeing, physical, financial, career, social, religion, community, and national institutions. Evaluative and experiential wellbeing ratings are lower among migrants, as well as social connections and attachment to their local community. Financial wellbeing is lowest among newcomers; however, migrants still do not reach the level of the native born after five years in their new country. Migrants are more likely than native born residents to express entrepreneurial spirit and to have confidence in national institutions of their new country.

Keywords: migrants, well-being, new comers, long timers, Europe


Between 2004 and 2009, population growth in the 27 European Union member states was primarily the result of net migration (European Commission, 2010). This has heightened interest in and debates on integration. European policy makers, hence, are in need of research tools to make informed decisions. The Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX), a partnership between the British Council and the Migration Policy Group, is one such tool that assesses integration policy in 31 European and North American countries. MIPEX focuses on measuring several aspects of national legislation, including migrants' access to labour markets, family reunification, education, political participation, residency, naturalization, and anti-discrimination, to determine whether an enabling or disabling integration environment exists in a given country. While tools such as MIPEX are important, the part that is often missing from policy discussions is the opinions of migrants themselves. GaIlup's recent research articulates the views and attitudes of those on the move towards integration. It also underlines the need to gauge migrants' wellbeing as quality of life measures are considered to be important for representing national prosperity in Europe (Stiglitz et al., 2009).

Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman makes note of the distinction between two forms of subjective wellbeing: experiential and evaluative (Kahneman and Riis, 2005). As described by Kahneman, experiential wellbeing is concerned with momentary affective states and the way people feel about experiences in real-time, while evaluative wellbeing is the way they remember their experiences after they are over. Evaluative wellbeing may include individual assessments of life domains such as standard of living, housing, job, marriage, and personal health. Experiential wellbeing seeks to bypass the effects of judgment and memory and capture feelings and emotions as close to the subject's immediate experience as possible. Deaton (2008) and Deaton et al (2010) have shown that at the national level evaluative wellbeing is correlated with income, education, and health, suggesting that this form of wellbeing is an important construct to use in analysing the migrant experience.

Building on Kahneman's and Deaton's work, Gallup scientists have identified the main drivers of wellbeing. In The Five Essential Elements of Wellbeing, the Gallup researchers discuss the importance of career, social connections, personal economics, personal health, and community to a person's overall wellbeing. Using this framework as a useful structure for analysis, this paper describes the migrant experience in the following life domains: Subjective wellbeing, physical, financial, career, social, religion, community, and national institutions. This multidimensional, comparative analysis helps to 1) better understand migrants' dynamic experience as they become progressively more familiar with the environment of their new country and community and 2) gauge the potential gap between the two migrant classifications and the native born category in terms of fundamental domains of life.

This paper presents data from the Gallup World Poll, an ongoing project that surveys residents in more than 150 countries on a variety of topics. …

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