Migrant Status and the Wellbeing Gap: The Case of an Ethnically Diverse, High-Conflict Area in Indonesia

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    Communities with high levels of in-migration can experience substantial social, cultural, and economic change due to the upheaval in social dynamics and changes to the economy. Such upheaval can result in between-group inequalities amongst the native and migrant populations, with migrants tending to have lower levels of wellbeing compared to those who were born in the area. Through utilising a culturally adapted wellbeing measurement tool, the Indonesian Wellbeing Scale, this study examines the native-immigrant wellbeing gap in Papua, Indonesia. Papua has historically experienced high levels of conflict, and is highly ethnically diverse, making it a unique context to examine the native-immigrant wellbeing gap. Drawing on data collected in 2020, the results indicate that the immigrant population has significantly higher levels of wellbeing when controlling for a number of socio-demographic characteristics. This finding is driven by all wellbeing dimensions within the Indonesian Wellbeing Scale: spirituality, social relations, material needs, and self-acceptance. Possible explanations for this include the happy migrant hypothesis, levels of wellbeing pre-migration, and impacts of the migration process. These findings have important implications for migration within both Indonesia, and in similar contexts throughout the world, highlighting that care must be taken when implementing migration policies to ensure that receiving communities are not negatively affected. Furthermore, the study emphasises the value in using a multidimensional, culturally adapted wellbeing measurement tool that was developed in consultation with individuals in the community to ensure we are more closely measuring what matters to people.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1781–1811
    JournalJournal of Happiness Studies
    Publication statusPublished - 2023


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