Unveiling the Complex Tapestry of Migrant Happiness

Migration promises a better life, yet it's a nuanced journey of gains and challenges. Success isn't just about economic improvement but also subjective well-being. Understanding migrant happiness requires exploring both the tangible benefits and the emotional costs.

Unveiling the Complex Tapestry of Migrant Happiness
Happiness is a combination of of life satisfaction, pleasant emotions and subjective well-being

This blog post draws on insights from the study "Bringing Happiness Into the Study of Migration and Its Consequences: What, Why, and How?" by Hendriks, M., & Bartram, D. (2019) to explore how migrants' pursuit of happiness shapes their experiences and outcomes in new environments.

Migration is a journey of hope and aspiration, often undertaken with the belief that it will lead to a better life for oneself and one's family. This narrative holds a universal appeal, cutting across cultures and continents, as people seek to migrate voluntarily for improved living conditions, economic opportunities, and a shot at a happier life.

However, the reality of migration is nuanced, presenting both significant benefits and formidable challenges that shape the overall experience of voluntary migrants. In this exploration, we delve into the multifaceted aspects of happiness for voluntary migrants, examining the improvements they seek, the obstacles they face, and the elusive nature of happiness itself.

The Pursuit of Happiness: A Migrant's Aspiration

For voluntary migrants, happiness often manifests as a composite of life satisfaction, pleasant emotions, subjective well-being, and mental health. The quest for happiness drives individuals to leave familiar territories in search of economic prosperity, better living conditions, educational opportunities and the promise of a more "livable" environment. Migrants often experience tangible improvements in their lives, such as significant economic success, enhanced living and safety conditions, educational achievements for their children, and the ability to support families back home through remittances. Furthermore, the migration process can lead to a perceived increase in freedom and opportunities, contributing to the overall well-being of the migrant.

The Shadow Side: Challenges on the Path

Yet, the path to happiness is strewn with hurdles. Discrimination, social isolation, and the devaluation of qualifications and experiences in the destination country can significantly dampen the spirits of migrants. The emotional toll of leaving family members behind, coupled with the difficulties of resettlement and cultural assimilation, adds to the complexity of the migrant experience. These challenges highlight the significant costs associated with migration, revealing the stark reality that not all migrants achieve the happiness they initially sought. The notion that a good life equates to happiness is debunked by the existence of "happy peasants and miserable millionaires," illustrating the subjective nature of happiness.

Happiness: A Complex Measure

The concept of happiness for migrants is further complicated by the dynamics of income gain and social positioning. The initial joy of economic improvement can be overshadowed by a lower social status in the destination country and the shifting frame of reference towards the locals and other immigrants. Additionally, family reunification, a common motivator for migration, brings its own set of challenges and changes to relationships, potentially affecting the migrant's happiness.

Happiness Functionality Among Migrants

Happiness for migrants operates differently, influenced by factors such as migrant selectivity, the migration event itself, and the specific reasons behind the move. The happiness of migrants is not solely dependent on objective improvements but also on their subjective well-being, which can be affected by acculturation, discrimination, and the need to rebuild social and economic networks. Furthermore, the happiness derived from family reunification or remittances is often counterbalanced by the sadness of separation.

The Interpretation of Happiness

A key barrier to migrant happiness lies in the interpretation of living conditions. Over time, the initial gains in happiness from improved circumstances are often offset by changing perceptions and rising aspirations, as migrants adjust to the new environment and compare their conditions less to those in their home country.


The narrative of migration and happiness is complex and deeply personal. While voluntary migration holds the promise of a better life, the reality is a tapestry of gains and losses, opportunities and challenges. To truly understand whether migrants have succeeded in achieving their goals, it is essential to consider not only objective success but also the impact on subjective well-being. As we delve deeper into the stories of migrants, we uncover the nuanced realities of their journeys, reminding us of the human aspiration for happiness and the diverse paths we take to find it.

Just like the intricate experiences of migrants seeking a better life, our platform offers a space to dive into these personal narratives. By subscribing to Job for Visa, you gain access to a community where these stories of hope, struggle, and success are shared and celebrated. Here, you can contribute your own experiences and learn from the diverse paths others have taken in their quest for happiness. If you're already a member, be sure to sign in and enrich the conversation with your insights.