Life satisfaction of immigrants across Europe: the role of social contacts

Helga A. G. de Valk, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI) and Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Bruno Arpino, Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Research on immigrants’ assimilation is widespread both in the U.S. and Europe. While it has been extensively studied how immigrants fare compared to natives on socio-economic indicators, few studies have focussed on immigrants’ perception of their position. In this paper we focus on comparing life satisfaction of immigrants and natives across Europe and on the role of social embeddedness. Using data from the first six rounds (2002-2012) of the European Social Survey, a repeated cross-sectional survey, we find life satisfaction among immigrants is lower than among natives even though differences diminish over generations. For first generation migrants part of the life satisfaction gap is explained by the lower level of social embeddedness they have compared to natives. We also find that social embeddedness is a key explanatory factor for life satisfaction for both immigrants and natives. For two out of the three indicators of social embeddedness that we consider we however find different patterns of association with life satisfaction for immigrants compared to natives.

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Presented in Session 114: Terms of belonging: immigrant integration