International migration and shifts in subjective well-being. A longitudinal study using German panel data


In many economically advanced countries, a relevant proportion of the population migrates across national boundaries every year. For these individuals, migrating abroad brings benefits (e.g. monetary returns) but also potential pitfalls, as migration is accompanied by profound changes in everyday life. However, there are mainly cross-sectional studies of individuals’ migration experiences that analyse the effects of migration on these individuals’ quality of life. This study fills this gap by examining shifts in the subjective well-being (SWB) of internationally mobile German citizens from a longitudinal perspective using data from the German Emigration and Remigration Panel Study and fixed effects panel regressions. To observe SWB over the course of actual migration events, we drew on a sample of repeat migrants: Germans who returned to Germany shortly before the panel and emigrated again during the panel. Consistent with methodologically comparable studies on internal migration, the analyses show a happiness dip before migration and an increase in SWB with the migration event. The increase is consistent, tends to be more pronounced than that observed in internal migration studies, and to some extent persists after the first few years of migration. Moreover, the results suggest that the increase in SWB systematically depends on the influence that individuals can exert on their migration decisions. Individuals without a partner show the highest increases in SWB, followed by so-called leading partners, partners of couples with a mutual migration decision, and trailing partners.

Migration Studies, 1-19
Suggested Citation: Genoni, A.; Stawarz, N.; Ette, A.; Rüger, H. (2024). International migration and shifts in subjective well-being: A longitudinal study using German panel data. Migration Studies, 1-19.