Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 19, Issue 6, pp 1783–1809 | Cite as

What Makes a Satisfied Immigrant? Host-Country Characteristics and Immigrants’ Life Satisfaction in Eighteen European Countries

  • Irena KoganEmail author
  • Jing Shen
  • Manuel Siegert
Research Paper


Based on the data from six waves of the European Social Survey collected from 18 European countries between 2002 and 2012, we aimed at explaining the variation in immigrants’ life satisfaction across countries, by focusing on host countries’ characteristics. By adopting the multi-level analysis, we examined the national-level traits from three aspects: namely, the climate of immigrant reception, the extent of public goods provision and the level of economic inequality. Our findings suggest that immigrants are likely to be more satisfied in countries that offer more welcoming social settings. However, this association is significant only when the social setting is measured by attitudes of the native-born towards immigrants, rather than by legal immigration regulations and policies. When taking into account the extent to which host country is able to provide public goods, country’s wealth levels seems not to matter for immigrants’ life satisfaction, whereas countries’ levels of human development is associated with an increase in immigrants’ life satisfaction albeit only at the 10% significance level. The role of economic inequality varies with immigrants’ own socio-economic statuses. On average, immigrants are less satisfied with their lives in host countries with higher levels of economic inequality. However, highly educated immigrants tend not to perceive economic inequality of the country as an obstacle of their satisfaction.


Immigrant integration Life satisfaction Cross-national comparison Europe 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mannheim Center for European Social Research (MZES)Universität MannheimMannheimGermany
  2. 2.Federal Office for Migration and RefugeesNurembergGermany

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