Unmet migration expectations and their consequences for the lives of immigrants


Migration research suggests that higher educated migrants report weaker attachment to their destination country than their lower-educated counterparts. This so-called integration paradox is probably caused by higher educated migrants perceiving more discrimination in ambiguous or unfavourable situations. Here we examine unmet expectations migrants have about their life abroad, experience of discrimination, and how these account for educational differences in destination attachment. We use cross-sectional and panel data of recent migrants to Switzerland from the Swiss Migration-Mobility Survey, capturing unmet expectations with a question on dissatisfaction with the migration decision. In line with the integration paradox, we observe lower destination attachment among higher educated migrants with unmet expectations. Although they more often report discrimination, this does not explain their lower destination attachment within this group. Instead of discrimination, adaptation problems matter. Higher educated migrants with unmet expectations do not outperform their lower-educated counterparts on other integration dimensions, particularly in social terms. These results indicate that migrants do not necessarily link unmet expectations to discrimination. Migrants may be optimistic and particularly vulnerable to disappointment but they can also mitigate more detrimental consequences, because they are prepared for moving into an unfamiliar environment despite lacking locally important resources.