Older Immigrants Happier, More Satisfied with Life Than Native-Born Americans

Ben Renner, Study Finds, March 23, 2019

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The research, led by Dawn Carr, an FSU assistant professor of sociology, found immigrants from white, Hispanic, and other racial groups had higher levels of happiness and total life satisfaction than those born in the U.S. on average. Of those surveyed, it appeared Hispanic immigrants living in America had the highest overall life satisfaction levels.

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The study began with Carr’s team wanting to know if the so-called “Hispanic Paradox,” which describes the phenomenon of older Hispanic immigrants in the U.S. being healthier than non-Hispanic whites, applied to overall happiness and life satisfaction.

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{snip} “This is particularly true for Hispanics, who maintain their well-being despite having fewer resources than their native-born counterparts. They seem to have developed a life that provides a good old age.”

An interesting factor in life satisfaction, according to the researchers, was education level. Whites with higher levels of education tended to have greater life satisfaction, but native and foreign-born blacks and Hispanics had the inverse relationship between education level and happiness.

“That was a puzzling discovery,” notes Carr. “This means that education does not seem to enhance the lives of minorities like we might expect. We do not know the reasons for these trends, but we might guess that factors like discrimination are involved, detracting from their overall happiness. For instance, someone who has a college degree, who is in a job with similarly educated individuals who are not minority, might be more overtly aware of the discrimination they’re experiencing.”

Older, foreign-born blacks did not share the same boosts in life satisfaction as those in other racial groups.

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[Editor’s Note: The study is available for a fee here.]

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