Life Satisfaction Among Italian Migrants, Italian Stayers, and Swiss Natives: Who Fares Better?
Keywords:Life satisfaction, Older migrants, Migration studies, Quantitative methodology
Although reasons for migration may differ, it can be argued that international migrants have a common goal: improving the living conditions and well-being for themselves and their families. However, we still know relatively little about how older migrants evaluate their well-being and the implications of migration for their life satisfaction. This paper aims to contribute to this body of research. In a first part, we focus on two comparisons: 1) The life satisfaction level of older Italian migrants in Switzerland compared to that of older Swiss natives, and 2) The life satisfaction level of older Italian migrants in Switzerland compared to that of older Italian stayers in Italy. In a second part, we investigate the determinants of life satisfaction in each of these three groups. The article draws on an original survey carried out in Switzerland and Italy (N = 1,654).
Against the current comparative literature on older migrants and non-migrants, we hypothesized that older Italian migrants in Switzerland display lower life satisfaction than older Swiss natives, and that older Italian migrants in Switzerland display higher life satisfaction than older stayers in Italy. We expected to observe these differences even when accounting for sociodemographic characteristics. While migrants’ average life satisfaction levels are lower than the levels of Swiss natives, this difference is fully mediated by sociodemographic variables. Migrants also report slightly lower life satisfaction levels than stayers; this difference remains significant at the p<0.1 level but diminishes as we control for sociodemographic characteristics. When investigating the life satisfaction determinants of each group, we find similarities among the three groups: being in good health and being able to make financial ends meet are positively correlated with life satisfaction, while experiencing age-related discrimination is negatively correlated with life satisfaction. Having a partner is only positively correlated with satisfaction for Swiss natives, and religiosity is only positively correlated with satisfaction for stayers.
The importance of this paper is threefold: 1) it investigates older migrants’ life satisfaction, an area of research that is underdeveloped, 2) it compares migrants to stayers, a comparison that is seldom found in the current literature but necessary to understand the implications of having a migratory background, and 3) it highlights the importance of policy interventions addressing the socioeconomic inequalities of older migrants.
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