Happy Newcomers in an Old Country? A Life Course Analysis of the Subjective Well-Being of First Generation Migrants in Germany

Hilke Brockmann, Jacobs University Bremen

Research on subjective well-being is fast-paced. Publication numbers are skyrocketing. But research on the happiness of migrants is still a blind spot, even though aging societies like Germany depend on positive net-migration. Therefore, we research how happy are first-generation immigrants in Germany? What determines their life satisfaction? And what are the comparative standards for the evaluation of their subjective well-being (SWB)? The longitudinal data of the German Socio-Economic Panel shows that life satisfaction of immigrants has declined continuously between 1984 and 2008. Positive and negative legal discrimination due to the migration status are important determinants. A significant influence comes from the ownership and control of resources. But immigrants use different social and temporal reference scales to evaluate their happiness. Strikingly, the ethnic community gains evaluative importance with a longer duration of stay. The most important reference point, however, is the immigrant’s past which loses its significance only after naturalization.

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Presented in Poster Session 4: Migration and Urbanization; Population, Development and the Environment