Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 483–506 | Cite as

The psychic costs of migration: evidence from Irish return migrants

  • Alan Barrett
  • Irene Mosca
Original Paper


Within the economics literature, the ‘psychic costs’ of migration have been incorporated into theoretical models since Sjaastad (J Polit Econ 70:80–93, 1962). However, the existence of such costs has rarely been investigated in empirical papers. In this paper, we look at the psychic costs of migration by using alcohol problems as an indicator. Rather than comparing immigrants and natives, we look at the native-born in a single country and compare those who have lived away for a period of their lives and those who have not. We use data from the first wave of the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing which is a large, nationally representative sample of older Irish adults. We find that men who lived away are more likely to have suffered from alcohol problems than men who stayed. For women, we again see a higher incidence of alcohol problems for short-term migrants. However, long-term female migrants are less likely to have suffered from alcohol problems. For these women, it seems that migration provided psychic benefits, and this is consistent with findings from other research which showed how migration provided economic independence to this group. The results remain when we adjust for endogeneity and when we use propensity score matching methods.


Return migrants Older adults Ireland Alcoholism 



We thank the two anonymous referees and the editor, Klaus F. Zimmermann, for their insightful comments and suggestions. We also thank the seminar participants at the University of Strathclyde, Swansea University and the National University of Ireland Maynooth and the delegates at the 2011 Irish Economic Association Annual Conference in Limerick and the 2nd TEMPO Conference on International Migration in Vienna. Finally, we also thank Brendan Walsh for the help in sourcing historic data on Irish migration flows. All errors are our own.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA)Trinity College DublinDublin 2Ireland
  2. 2.Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI)Dublin 2Ireland
  3. 3.Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)BonnGermany

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