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Kratz, Fabian (2020): On the way from misery to happiness? A longitudinal perspective on economic migration and well-being. In: Migration Studies, Vol. 8, No. 3: pp. 307-355

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The assessment of returns from migration lies at the very heart of migration research. While a growing body of literature examines the links between migration and wellbeing, dynamic relationships require further elaboration. Using the longest running, nationally representative panel study with information on well-being, the German Socio-Economic Panel (1985-2016) this article addresses two essential, as yet unresolved, questions: (1) How does the favourable self-selection of economic migrants affect their wellbeing before relocation? (2) How does the well-being of economic migrants develop when individuals approach migration, and thereafter? Results show that-although favourably selected regarding determinants of wellbeing-economically motivated migrants are not happier before relocating than those who stay. Furthermore, economic migration has a causal impact on well-being, net of both observed and unobserved differences between migrants and stayers. This impact is transitory for women and long-lasting for men. For men, the results corroborate the view that migration enables access to opportunity structures favouring the pursuit of individual happiness. Results also differ by migration type: While long-distance movers and return migrants show a period of depressed happiness before a move, these findings do not hold for short-distance and onward migrants. Furthermore, moving towards urban areas results in stronger permanent effects than moving towards rural areas.

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