Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Immigrants are more likely to be unhappy

Leaving your family, friends, and way of life to come to America is bound to take its toll on you. Imagine living the rest of your life in, say, Japan. You'd be a fish out of water for a very long time.

The General Social Survey for many years has asked respondents how happy they are. Answer-choices include "very happy," "pretty happy," and "not too happy." While only 11.6% of native-born Americans report that they are not too happy, 16.9% of immigrants feel that way. That's a statistically significant difference. And it varies by country of origin:


Percent of immigrants in America who are not happy (N = 31,869)

Puerto Rico 29.2
Africa 28.9
West Indian 28.6
Spain 24.6
Arab 21.1
France 19.0
Italy 17.8
Mexico 17.2
China 16.4
Japan 16.3
Scotland 16.0
Russia 14.7
England/Wales 12.9
Poland 12.3
India 10.6
Philippines 10.2
Ireland 10.0
Germany 7.7

Groups differ a great deal. Germans and Irish immigrants are just as happy as native-born Americans, but Puerto Ricans and Africans are 2 1/2 times as likely to suffer from unhappiness. People who are educated and speak English do better.  

Immigrants lose more than familiar customs and proximity to loved ones over here. At Secular Right, Heather MacDonald recently described how African immigrants are mistreated by native-born blacks, and I know that some Mexican Americans do the same thing to immigrants from Latin America.

People argue that immigration might not be particularly good for Americans, but it's good for the immigrants. Says who? For an extra buck, you make yourself miserable? You cut your children off from relatives back home? You exchange one mess for another, and lose your way of life in the meantime. Think twice about it, folks.

3 comments:

ironrailsironweights said...

One would think that an immigrant's ability to go back to his or her homeland for occasional visits would increase happiness. Note, however, that the least happy immigrants are also those who have the easiest time returning home: Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens with no restrictions on coming and going, and relatively cheap flights are readily available.

Peter

Statistics Police said...

Ron,

You sure took a page out of How to Lie with Statistics. The relevant question is not how immigrants’ happiness compares with Americans’ happiness, but whether immigrants are happier in America than they were in their home countries and how happy they would have been if they had remained in their home countries. Besides, the GSS question is flawed because it panders to the American taboo against admitting that you are, heaven forbid, unhappy.

Kimaobl said...

Ron, You sure took a page out of How to Lie with Statistics. The relevant question is not how immigrants’ happiness compares with Americans’ happiness, but whether immigrants are happier in America than they were in their home countries and how happy they would have been if they had remained in their home countries. Besides, the GSS question is flawed because it panders to the American taboo against admitting that you are, heaven forbid, unhappy.