Why are Locals Happier than Internal Migrants? The Role of Daily Life

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Abstract

Several survey studies have found that internal migrants report lower levels of happiness than locals, even after accounting for socio-economic factors. Traditional global self-ratings reveal that the migrant–local happiness-gap is also present in the data we present. The reasons for the migrant–local happiness-gap are as yet unclear. This paper aims to open this ‘black box’ by exploring the role of daily activities among a population that has generally been overlooked despite their high migration frequency: young adults. An innovative smartphone application is used that combines two techniques for multiple moment assessment: the experience sampling method and the day reconstruction method. Based on the application data, we examine whether internal migrants spend their time differently than locals and in which situations they feel noticeably less happy than locals. The data reveal that internal migrants distribute less time to happiness-producing activities such as active leisure, social drinking/parties, and activities outside home/work/transit. Internal migrants feel less happy than locals when spending time with friends and while eating. Possible explanations focusing on the role of social capital are discussed. Further analyses reveal that daily life experiences greatly enhance the explanation of the migrant–local happiness-gap. This paper demonstrates the potential value of real-time data and phone applications in solving happiness puzzles.

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Hendriks, M., Ludwigs, K., & Veenhoven, R. (2016). Why are Locals Happier than Internal Migrants? The Role of Daily Life. Social Indicators Research, 125(2), 481–508. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-014-0856-7

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