Quality of life among immigrants. An analysis of the Survey on living conditions among persons with an immigrant background 2016
The main purpose of this report is to study subjective quality of life among immigrants in Norway, based on the Survey on living conditions among persons with an immigrant background 2016. Subjective quality of life is mainly measured through a question on satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 is very dissatisfied and 10 is very satisfied. Some comparisons with the satisfaction levels of the whole Norwegian population are also done, based on data from the Health interview survey 2015.
On average there are small differences between the satisfaction levels of the immigrants and the whole population. Equal amounts are highly satisfied with life. However, immigrants are somewhat more dissatisfied (defined as 5 or lower on the scale ranging from 0 to 10). While having a higher level of education is correlated with being more satisfied with life in the population as a whole, this is not the case for immigrants. There is little or no correlation between reasons for immigration (work, being a refugee etc.) and life satisfaction. However, satisfaction rises with increasing residence time in Norway.
The differences between immigrants from various countries are far bigger than the difference between immigrants as a group and the population at large. Immigrants from four countries have particularly low levels of satisfaction: Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Poland. The most satisfied immigrants come from Somalia. The difference is considerable. Compared to immigrants from Somalia, the percentage dissatisfied with life is close to three times as high among immigrants from Iran and Iraq.
The level of satisfaction among immigrants is correlated with several living condition aspects. The results from a multivariate regression analysis, indicate particularly strong effects of a) having a partner that does not live in Norway, b) the experience of discrimination in at least two different situations during the last 12 months, c) reduced functional ability, and d) a difficult economic situation (having trouble makings ends meet). Among purely subjective factors the estimates for loneliness and mental health stand out. Tests indicate that the main results are robust to alternative ways of analyzing the data.
Although no conclusions of a causal nature can be drawn from the analyses in this report, there are several factors that seem to contribute to explaining differences in quality of life between immigrants to Norway. At least some of these factors are probably also playing a part explaining why the immigrants interviewed in the survey are somewhat more dissatisfied with life than the whole population. Still, in spite of widespread (perceived) discrimination, and worse living conditions in a number of areas, immigrants have a surprisingly high level of satisfaction. Their satisfaction with life is higher than expected, given what we know about the life of immigrants in Norway. The extremely satisfied immigrants from Somalia is a noteworthy example. It is not clear how this paradox might be explained. One possible explanation has to do with the mechanism of social comparisons. Immigrants might compare their life situation in Norway with how things are in their country of origin. Religiosity could also contribute. There is a question in the survey about the importance of religion in life. Immigrants are far more religious than the average Norwegian, and our results suggest that religiosity contributes to a higher level of satisfaction.