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Migration has its own woes

world Updated: Aug 31, 2010 23:30 IST

PTI
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For migrants to the UK from India and elsewhere, the grass might not be greener on the other side, a new study from the University of Leicester has found.

Economic migrants travelling to different shores for greater income could be set for disappointment — because the pursuit of wealth does not equate with happiness.

The study, carried out by sociologist David Bartram, is titled “Economic Migration and Happiness: Comparing Immigrants' and Natives' Happiness Gains from Income.”

He sought to establish whether those people who were motivated by higher incomes in a wealthy country actually gain greater happiness via migration. He also examined whether these economic migrants might have exaggerated expectations about what they will achieve and experience, such that there is some significant disappointment.

Bartram, of the Department of Sociology, said: “The study of happiness tells us that people generally do not gain greater happiness from earning higher incomes — which suggests that migrants might be mistaken in believing that they will be better off if they can move to a wealthy country”.

“The results suggest that economic migrants might well experience disappointment,” the sociologist said.

“Migrants do gain happiness from higher incomes, to a greater extent than natives - but the relationship is weak even for migrants. In fact, it also works out that migrants are less happy than natives,” Bartram said.

The probable reason is that they expect to be happier by virtue of earning the greater incomes available in a wealthy country — but they end up wanting even more after they get there: aspirations probably increase at least as much as incomes.

“Many of us are guilty of believing that money is more important for happiness than it is - and this research suggests that migrants are not terribly different in this regard,” he said, adding life as an immigrant in a wealthy country can be very hard.

The research examined responses from 1,400 people in the World Values Survey (existing survey data).

Bartram said that the research might also serve to allay some media fears and people's concerns about being “overrun” by immigrants.