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Why do immigrants become less happy? Explanations for the decrease in life satisfaction of immigrants in Germany over time

Yaman, F. ORCID: 0000-0002-5752-6922, Cubi-Molla, P. & Plagnol, A. ORCID: 0000-0001-5705-8949 (2022). Why do immigrants become less happy? Explanations for the decrease in life satisfaction of immigrants in Germany over time. Migration Studies, doi: 10.1093/migration/mnac034


We investigate the life satisfaction trajectories of immigrants in Germany. Using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel from 1984 to 2015, we find that recently arrived immigrants are more satisfied with their lives than comparable German natives. However, their life satisfaction decreases more over time than that of their German counterparts; i.e., we observe a negative years-since-migration (YSM) – life satisfaction association. We propose and test five possible explanations for this observation: (1) differential effects of declining health between natives and immigrants, (2) the stability of the YSM-life satisfaction association over time and across samples, (3) the effects of non-random sample attrition, (4) immigrants’ integration in German society, and (5) differences in the YSM effect across ethnic backgrounds. We find that the decrease in life satisfaction among immigrants over time is mostly explained by a combination of deteriorating health and an increase in the importance of health for life satisfaction. The extent to which immigrants’ life satisfaction changes over time in the host country partly depends on their country of origin. The results suggest that there is scope for policies targeted toward immigrants’ better utilization of the healthcare system and their integration in host societies to improve immigrants’ life satisfaction.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons CC BY license, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Publisher Keywords: Europe; Germany; immigrants; life satisfaction; subjective well-being
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Economics
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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