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Policymakers need to consider the material and emotional well-being of immigrants from transition economies and reduce the barriers to labor market integration, as there can be potential “win-win” situations if migrants are happier and more productive abroad.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 marked the beginning of the transition process from planned to market economies in the former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe.

Credibly assessing whether leaving transition economies improves movers’ quality of life remains a challenging empirical question.

Post-socialist migrants can contribute positively to social outcomes at home and abroad.

Recent research finds that leaving transition economies leads to improvements in income, life satisfaction, and freedom perceptions.

However, the comparative evidence is mixed and suggests that immigrants from transition economies have worse labor market outcomes than natives and certain immigrant groups.

Following sharp declines, both life satisfaction and income rose in these countries in the mid-1990s, although the “happiness recovery” was less than that in GDP, leading to the conclusion that ordinary citizens “paid” for the transition with their happiness [1], [2].

The “unhappiness in transition” was due to the inapplicability of the education received under socialism, deteriorating public goods, declining social protection, income inequality, and stagnating labor market conditions [1], [2].

In contrast, one study presents causal evidence which shows that moving from transition economies to live in the West increases the incomes, life satisfaction, and freedom perceptions of those who move.Given these unique experiences during the transition, post-socialist movers may be different from other migrants.Specifically, while scholars still debate whether economic growth increases a country’s subjective well-being (SWB) over time, transition economies are a special case: in these societies, economic growth predicts short- and long-term SWB fluctuations.They include: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyz Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.


While income gains may generally fail to translate into higher SWB for other groups of economic migrants, economic migration and the rise in material standards it brings should positively influence the perceived well-being of post-socialist movers.Transition economies Transition economies are the countries in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union which experienced (or are currently experiencing) democratization and marketization reforms.


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