Self-selection in physical and mental health among older intra-European migrants
Amelie Constant & Nadja Milewski
The Healthy Immigrant Paradox found in the literature by comparing the
health of immigrants to that of natives in the host country, may suffer
from serious cultural biases. Our study evades such biases by utilizing
a destination-origin framework, in which we compare the health of
emigrants to that of their compatriots who stay in the country of
origin. Isolating cultural effects can best gauge self-selection and
host country effects on the health of emigrants with longer time abroad.
We study both the physical and mental dimensions of health among
European-born emigrants over 50, who originate from seven European
countries and now live elsewhere in Europe. We use the Survey of Health,
Ageing and Retirement in Europe and apply multi-level modeling.
Regarding the physical health we find positive self-selection,
beneficial adaptation effects, and effects from other observables for
some but not all countries. With the notable exception of the German
émigrés, we cannot confirm selection in mental health, while additional
years abroad have only weak effects. Overall, living abroad has some
favorable effects on the health of older emigrants. The economic
similarity of countries and the free intra-European mobility mitigate
the need for initial self-selection in health and facilitate the
migration experience abroad.
Keywords: panel data; physical health; mental health; older population; emigrants; multi-level models; Europe
JEL Classification: C23, F22, J11, J14, J15, J61, I12, I14, O52