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Are Immigrants Less Satisfied with Life than Natives?

A European comparison

In the context of migration and integration, social relations are crucial. But establishing social ties in a new country takes time – sometimes over generations. In a study by Helga de Valk and Bruno Arpino, they examine whether immigrants and their children across Europe are satisfied in their life as much as natives with similar socioeconomic characteristics, and how social relations contribute to this feeling of satisfaction. Using data from the European Social Survey, they show that immigrants and their descendants in Europe are less satisfied with their lives than the native population. However, this gap diminished over generations. One explanation for this is that immigrants’ show a lower level of social embeddedness (meeting friends, joining social activities and having someone to talk with) which plays an important role in influencing one’s life satisfaction. More specifically, compared to natives, only the first generation of immigrants showed systematically lower levels of social relations. Conversely, they found no evidence that the second generation of immigrants was less socially active than natives. Even if some social ties seemed to be more important for immigrants (like meeting other people), the researchers show evidence that the difference in life satisfaction between natives and immigrants can be in part explained by different levels of social embeddedness.


Arpino, Bruno, de Valk, Helga (2017): Comparing Life Satisfaction of Immigrants and Natives Across Europe: The Role of Social Contacts. Social Indicators Research, pp. 1-22.