Is it all about the costs? Cultural distance and adjustment of recent migrants


The cultural distance (CD) between the origin and destination country of migrants has long been considered important for individual adjustment. Past research predominantly followed a cost perspective, emphasising rising adjustment costs with increasing CD and postulating a negative linear relationship. Previous studies therefore overlooked potential benefits of CD for adjustment. We address this gap by taking a more differentiated perspective on CD and adjustment. Using probability-based survey data on recent German migrants , we examined migrant adjustment at different CD-levels. Employing multilevel regressions for sociocultural and psychological adjustment, the findings reveal an inverted-U shaped relationship between CD and both adjustment dimensions. This challenges the cost perspective, indicating an “optimal” range of intermediate CD as most beneficial for adjustment. Thus, the prevailing view on negative consequences of CD for adjustment may underestimate the challenges for culturally close migrants, and overlook that certain levels of cultural dissimilarity can facilitate migrants’ adjustment.

Suggested citation: Genoni, A.; Décieux, J. P.; Murdock, E. (2023). Is it all about the costs? Cultural distance and adjustment of recent migrants. SocArXiv. doi: