Older Migrants’ Social Capital in Host Countries: A Pan-European Comparison


Although a wide range of studies have tackled the outputs of social capital, fewer efforts have so far been dedicated to unveil its inputs. This study provides new empirical evidence on the determinants of social capital. The assumption to be tested is that the influence of “length of residence” on migrant’s social capital is different across host countries in Europe. The study makes use of data from the wave 2 of Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (2006–2007) on individuals aged 50 or more in 14 European countries. Social capital is measured through two binary variables of participation in social activities and high generalized trust.

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  1. 1.

    Notice that the use of individual calibrated weights already reduced such differences.

  2. 2.

    The distribution of length of stay is displayed in Figure A1 in the Appendix.

  3. 3.

    Notice that the Pearson correlation coefficient is highly significant with a P-value<0.001.

  4. 4.

    Apart from Poland and Italy, but the low rates of migrants in these countries suggest that there may be some statistical imprecision about the previously mentioned rates.

  5. 5.

    Notice that our sample of older immigrant may be highly selected leading to an overestimate of migrants’ level of social capital. Older migrants who have chosen to stay in their host country are likely to be satisfied with their economic and social conditions. Some other migrants (not observed in our sample) may have leaved the host country because they were less attached or because of their precarious living conditions in the destination country. In this respect, some migrants may have voluntarily decided to return to their origin countries or to move in another country because of disillusion or barriers they faced. As proved by the economic literature [Borjas and Bratsberg, 1996; Borjas, 1989], the least successful immigrants are more likely to leave the host country. Return migration has been found for immigrants who have failed in the labor market or for those who have seen a narrowing of their positive outlook in the host country.

  6. 6.

    In Figure 3, Ireland is excluded from the analysis because of its net emigration feature [Gilmartin, 2012].

  7. 7.

    Results not shown.

  8. 8.

    Notice that SHARE data also provided information on migrants’ country of origin, so we also investigated the possibility this variable could be associated with different levels of migrants’ social capital. However, because of limitation in statistical power (clusters of migrants from several regions of the world comprise too few cases whatsoever), no primary evidence was found.


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This work is part of the HEAPS research program (Health Economics of Ageing and Participation in Society, www.irdes.fr/Heaps) supported by grant number ANR-09-JCJC-0141-01 awarded by the National Research Agency, France. This paper uses data from SHARELIFE release 1, as of November 24, 2010 or SHARE release 2.4.0, as of March 17, 2010. The SHARE data collection has been primarily funded by the European Commission through the 5th framework program (project QLK6-CT-2001-00360 in the thematic program Quality of Life), through the 6th framework program (projects SHARE-I3, RII-CT-2006-062193, COMPARE, CIT5-CT-2005-028857, and SHARELIFE, CIT4-CT-2006-028812) and through the 7th framework program (SHARE-PREP, 211909 and SHARE-LEAP, 227822). Additional funding from the US National Institute on Aging (U01 AG09740-13S2, P01 AG005842, P01 AG08291, P30 AG12815, Y1-AG-4553-01, and OGHA 04-064, IAG BSR06-11, R21 AG025169) as well as from various national sources is gratefully acknowledged (see www.share-project.org for a full list of funding institutions).

The authors would like to thanks the participants of the IV Workshop of the “Global Network on Social Capital and Health” held at the University of Padova (October 4 and 5, 2012). In particular, the authors would like to thank Lorenzo Rocco, Susan Averett, Richard M. Scheffler, Timothy Brown, Sherman Folland, Tor Iversen, Audrey Laporte, Lucas Ronconi, Florence Jusot, and Paul Dourgnon.

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Figure A1

Figure A1

Distribution of length of stay.

Table A1

Table A1 Descriptive statistics of the covariates in the analysis

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Berchet, C., Sirven, N. Older Migrants’ Social Capital in Host Countries: A Pan-European Comparison. Eastern Econ J 40, 166–180 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1057/eej.2013.40

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  • social capital
  • aging

JEL Classifications

  • F22
  • O52
  • C31