“Comparison is the thief of joy”. Does social comparison affect migrants’ subjective well-being?
Published: October 2019
Keywords: subjective well-being, migrants, social comparison
JEL classification: I31, F22
This paper contributes to the growing strand of literature that investigates migrants’ subjective wellbeing by analysing how the social comparison with two reference groups (natives and other migrants) within the host country affects migrants’ life satisfaction. Using data from six rounds of the European Social Survey, we constructed two measures of economic distance that compare each migrant’s situation with the average of the group of natives and the group of migrants with similar characteristics. Our results indicate that when the disadvantage between the migrant and the reference groups becomes smaller, migrant’s life satisfaction increases. The effect of the social comparison with natives appears larger than the social comparison with migrants and, in both cases, it is stronger for individuals with higher levels of education. We also show that social comparison is stronger for second generation migrants than for first generation migrants and, within this latter group, it intensifies as length of stay in the host country increases. Overall, the role of social comparison seems crucial to understanding patterns of integration in an enlarged Europe.