Financial Wellbeing and International Migration Intentions: Evidence from Global Surveys

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This paper investigates the role of subjective financial wellbeing (FWB) in international migration. A large body of literature established that higher relative income deprivation motivates migration. Most of this literature emphasizes income-based measures of relative deprivation (RD) and neglects to account for subjective perceptions of financial and economic wellbeing. We draw on rich global surveys from the Gallup World Poll (GWP) between 2009 and 2018, across 151 countries. Employing a range of indicators, after controlling for initial absolute income, we find that international migration intentions are not only positively related to income-based RD, but also to having unfavorable relative perceptions of financial and economic well-being. This suggests that both objective and subjective elements of FWB can reinforce migration desires. This relationship is not monotone throughout the income distribution. Richer individuals have higher propensity to migrate when pessimistic about future economic and financial prosperity. As would be expected, income-based RD appears to have a lesser effect on those in the top income quintile than it does on poorer people. Our results are robust to using different income-based and subjective FWB indicators, controlling for individual characteristics, country and time effects, and addressing endogeneity of both income and perceptions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2261-2289
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Happiness Studies
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


  • Gallup world poll
  • International migration intentions
  • Relative deprivation
  • Subjective financial well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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