Social Indicators Research

, Volume 125, Issue 2, pp 481–508 | Cite as

Why are Locals Happier than Internal Migrants? The Role of Daily Life

  • Martijn HendriksEmail author
  • Kai Ludwigs
  • Ruut Veenhoven


Several survey studies have found that internal migrants report lower levels of happiness than locals, even after accounting for socio-economic factors. Traditional global self-ratings reveal that the migrantlocal happiness-gap is also present in the data we present. The reasons for the migrantlocal happiness-gap are as yet unclear. This paper aims to open this ‘black box’ by exploring the role of daily activities among a population that has generally been overlooked despite their high migration frequency: young adults. An innovative smartphone application is used that combines two techniques for multiple moment assessment: the experience sampling method and the day reconstruction method. Based on the application data, we examine whether internal migrants spend their time differently than locals and in which situations they feel noticeably less happy than locals. The data reveal that internal migrants distribute less time to happiness-producing activities such as active leisure, social drinking/parties, and activities outside home/work/transit. Internal migrants feel less happy than locals when spending time with friends and while eating. Possible explanations focusing on the role of social capital are discussed. Further analyses reveal that daily life experiences greatly enhance the explanation of the migrant–local happiness-gap. This paper demonstrates the potential value of real-time data and phone applications in solving happiness puzzles.


Internal migration Residential mobility Happiness Subjective well-being Experience sampling method Day reconstruction method 



The authors thank Stephan Erdtmann for technological help with constructing the application and Martijn Burger and Thomas de Vroome for comments on earlier versions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martijn Hendriks
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Kai Ludwigs
    • 3
  • Ruut Veenhoven
    • 1
  1. 1.Erasmus Happiness Economics Research Organisation (EHERO)Erasmus University RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.RotterdamThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Happiness Research Organisation (HRO)DüsseldorfGermany

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