Social Indicators Research

, Volume 126, Issue 3, pp 1109–1141 | Cite as

Determinants of Well-being Among Legal and Illegal Immigrants: Evidence from South Italy

  • Federica D’IsantoEmail author
  • Panagiotis Fouskas
  • Melania Verde


The pursuit of happiness and life satisfaction mobilises individuals to create a dynamic, unique, everyday reality for themselves. The literature has placed particular emphasis on the study of immigrants on the basis that migration is triggered by discrepancies between prior expectations and realisations post-migration. However, the relationship between happiness and illegal migration has received little attention. This study contributes to the current literature by analysing a sample of both illegal and legal immigrants to test the established socio-economic drivers of well-being for each group. Additionally, for the first time, the subjective well-being (SWB) of the respondents is measured in a continuous scale utilising the Visual Analogue Scale technique. Our findings demonstrate that illegal immigrants not only experience greater increases in SWB, but they also report higher levels. Finally, the income effect is positively correlated (although weak) with SWB for illegal immigrants only and family size is positively correlated with greater levels of SWB for their legal counterparts.


Well-being Happiness Life satisfaction Illegal migration Visual Analogue Scale 



The authors would particularly, like to thank Dr. Luciano Gualdieri, from ASL Napoli 1, for both making the data available and helping with the preparation of this paper. The authors would like to thank participants at the WISERD 2013, 4th Annual Conference, and at the “Svipuppo, Lavoro e Istituzioni” 2014, workshop for they helpful suggestions. Many thanks also to Michalis Drouvelis, Marco Musella, Stephen Drinkwater and Catherine Robinson for their useful comments on earlier versions of this paper. We would also like to thank three anonymous referees for their constructive feedback on earlier versions of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Federica D’Isanto
    • 1
    Email author
  • Panagiotis Fouskas
    • 2
  • Melania Verde
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political SciencesUniversity of Naples “Federico II”NaplesItaly
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK

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