Subjective Well-Being and Immigration

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2015-4-23-36

I. Tsapenko, Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation (

Abstract. Immigration has an ambiguous effect on the subjective well-being (SWB) of receiving societies. Being small, it is rather positive. This conclusion is preliminary and requires further investigations, which corresponds to results of numerous studies of the immigration impact on the objective well-being of people in more developed countries. According to these studies, some social groups, mainly low qualified workers, suffer from immigration facing the risks of rising unemployment and lowering incomes. Besides, the increase of the foreign born population with different cultural background originates threats to national identities of natives. At the same time, the inflow of foreigners improves economic performance and as a rule contributes to ameliorating of work and life conditions for the population majority in the receiving countries. The rise of the objective well-being of large social groups, both taking place and being expected, in comparison with its previous indices and with other groups, including immigrants, is refracted in indicators of SWB. Such positive effect was revealed in some recent studies. The conclusion of a positive impact of immigration on SWB in receiving societies looks like a paradox amid a negative public opinion about immigration, demonstrated in street protests against the assault of identities of different cultural backgrounds and in electoral support of anti-immigrant political parties. Nevertheless, such negativism is, first of all, peculiar for the assessments of national sequences of immigration. And these assessments are based on warped perceptions of the scale and impact of the foreign born population flow, being influenced by external factors. Besides, the influence of national assessments on life satisfaction and feeling of happiness is very small. Meanwhile, the public image of the immigration impact on personal life, life of family members and of the home town, which is based on personal experience and more adequate knowledge of local processes, is less critical and more favorable. As opposed to national assessments, the effect of such natives' perception of the immigration micro-social effects on their SWB is much more important. (This is mainly due to a higher significance for SWB of current developments in peoples' personal life and in their immediate social environment, compared to macro-social issues).

Keywords: subjective well-being, life satisfaction, feeling of happiness, life and work conditions, immigration, public opinion, native population, foreign born population

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For citation:
Tsapenko I. Subjective Well-Being and Immigration . World Eonomy and International Relations, 2015, no. 4, pp. 23-36.

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