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

Beata Nowok, Maarten Van Ham, Allan MacKay Findlay, Vernon Gayle

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    138 Citations (Scopus)
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    The majority of quantitative studies on the consequences of internal migration focus almost exclusively on the labour-market outcomes and the material well-being of migrants. We investigate whether individuals who migrate within the UK become happier after the move than they were before, and whether the effect is permanent or transient. Using life-satisfaction responses from twelve waves of the British Household Panel Survey and employing a fixed-effects model, we derive a temporal pattern of migrants’ subjective well-being around the time of the migration event. Our findings make an original contribution by revealing that, on average, migration is preceded by a period when individuals experience a significant decline in happiness for a variety of reasons, including changes in personal living arrangements. Migration itself causes a boost in happiness, and brings people back to their initial levels. The research contributes, therefore, to advancing an understanding of migration in relation to set-point theory. Perhaps surprisingly, long-distance migrants are at least as happy as short-distance migrants despite the higher social and psychological costs involved. The findings of this paper add to the pressure to retheorize migration within a conceptual framework that accounts for social well-being from a life-course perspective.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)986-1002
    JournalEnvironment and Planning A
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


    • Internal migration
    • Subjective well-being
    • Happiness
    • Panel model
    • Set-point theory


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