Thursday 4 April 2019

Migrant acceptance

Arthur Grimes' latest column at Newsroom covers migration and wellbeing. 
The happiest countries in the world tend to be quite affluent but also tend to have strong social support programmes. In 2018, the ten happiest countries according to the Gallup Poll were (in order): Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Australia. Thus New Zealand, at 8th, is (despite our grumbles) a great place to live.

Often migrants come from poorer, and less happy countries. The process of moving to happy countries (e.g. in Northern Europe, Canada and Australasia) leads to a significant boost in their welfare.

Indeed the top ten ranking countries for average happiness of migrants (i.e. of the foreign born) is almost the same as for overall happiness: Finland, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, Mexico (Netherlands slips fractionally to 11th). Note that New Zealand rises to 5th in the ranking of happiness of migrants.

An important factor for explaining migrant wellbeing in their new country is the local attitudes of the domestic population towards migrants. The report finds that countries which are highly accepting towards migrants tend to have both greater migrant happiness and greater happiness for the domestically-born population.

This aspect is one in which New Zealand scores particularly highly. According to the Gallup Poll data, Iceland and New Zealand are neck-in-neck at the top of the most accepting countries for migrants. Intriguingly, acceptance of migrants is not strongly related to country incomes: the next five places after New Zealand in the acceptance stakes are Rwanda, Canada, Sierra Leone, Mali and Australia. (People in Eastern European countries are particularly unaccepting of migrants. Of the eleven countries who are, on average, least accepting towards migrants, ten are in Eastern Europe; the other is Israel).
He links through to the underlying data, from the 2018 World Happiness report. That report constructed a migrant acceptance index:
In reaction to the migrant crisis that swept Europe in 2015 and the backlash against migrants that accompanied it, Gallup developed a Migrant Acceptance Index (MAI) designed to gauge people’s personal acceptance of migrants not just in Europe, but throughout the rest of the world.

Gallup’s Migrant Acceptance Index is based on three questions that ask respondents about migrants in increasing level of proximity to them. Respondents are asked whether the following situations are “good things” or “bad things”: immigrants living in their country, an immigrant becoming their neighbor and immigrants marrying into their families.

“A good thing” response is worth three points in the index calculation, a volunteered response of “it depends” or “don’t know” is worth one point, and “a bad thing” is worth zero points. We considered volunteered responses such as “it depends” because in some countries, who these migrants are may factor more heavily into whether they are accepted. The index is a sum of the points across the three questions, with a maximum possible score of 9.0 (all three are good things) and a minimum possible score of zero (all three are bad things). The higher the score, the more accepting the population is of migrants. 
Polled Kiwis gave the second highest average score in the world: 8.25, just 0.01 points below Iceland's 8.26. The survey questions were asked in 2016 and 2017.

Michael Reddell's post earlier this week on immigration suggested that policy allowing reasonably liberal immigration represents an 'elite' ideology.

It may.

But if it does, it's an elite ideology that appears very broadly shared - at least in the Gallup data.

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