Most studies exploring the well-being of migrants are confined to their destination countries and use the native population as reference group. However, the classical comparison with the native reference group does not provide sufficient information on the consequences of migration itself. Stayers in the country of origin provide a potentially more fruitful comparison group for addressing the question of how migration influences migrants’ well-being.
Our research contributes to the existing literature by asking: Does migration from an Eastern European country (Czech Republic and Poland) to a wealthier Western European country (Austria, Germany and Sweden) pay off in the long run in respect to both income and well-being?
Applying propensity score matching with data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), our analysis can be divided into two steps: First, we compare the income of older migrants to both stayers in the origin country and to natives in the destination country. Second, we relate this to our central outcome variable subjective well-being measured by the CASP-12 index, an abridged version of CASP-19.
We observe an income gain of Eastern European migrants compared to stayers in all three destination countries. However, the relative income position of migrants compared to natives differs between the destination countries. Austria is the only country with a favorable income position of migrants. It is also the only country in which a positive and statistically significant gain in well-being is observed. In the cases of Sweden and Germany, it can be seen that migration does not necessarily lead to gains in well-being. Our results indicate that in the long run, migrants tend to compare their economic situation more to similar natives in the destination country than to their native counterparts in the origin country.