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WeD Working Paper 33





Copyright © Katie Wright-Revolledo

August 2007

WeD - Wellbeing in Developing Countries

ESRC Research Group

WeD is a multidisciplinary research group funded by the ESRC, dedicated to the study of poverty, inequality and the quality of life in poor countries.

The research group is based at the University of Bath and draws on the knowledge and expertise from three different departments (Economics and International Development, Social and Policy Sciences and Psychology) as well as an extensive network of overseas contacts and specific partnerships with institutes in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Peru and Thailand. The purpose of the research programme is to develop conceptual and methodological tools for investigating and understanding the social and cultural construction of wellbeing in specific countries.

Correspondence The Secretary Wellbeing in Developing Countries ESRC Research Group (WeD) 3 East 2.10 University of Bath Bath BA2 7AY UK E-mail: wed@bath.ac.uk www.welldev.org.uk Tel: +44 (0) 1225 384514 Fax: +44 (0) 1225 384848 A large print size version of this paper is available on request.

Working Paper Submission For enquiries concerning the submission of working papers please contact Ian Gough by email: i.r.gough@bath.ac.uk or by writing to the above address.

Acknowledgements The support of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is gratefully acknowledged. The work was part of the programme of the ESRC Research Group on Wellbeing in Developing Countries.


This paper provides a wellbeing analysis of international migration by inductively analysing perceived obstacles or blocks to achieving wellbeing amongst a sample of 99 Peruvian migrants based in London and Madrid. It explores how people construct their wellbeing in different cultural settings and adapt as they move between different societal contexts and systems of meaning. Adopting a wellbeing perspective has considerable advantages for understanding the phenomenon of international migration. At the same time it affirms key elements in our understanding of wellbeing through post hoc identification of four major obstacles to improved wellbeing: loss of autonomy, enjoyment, relatedness and social status.


Wellbeing, Migration, Peru, London, Madrid.

Recommended Reading:

Copestake, J. (editor) (Forthcoming Nov 2008) Wellbeing and Development in Peru. Basingstoke. Palgrave Macmillan.

Correspondence to:

Katie Wright-Revolledo Department of Economics and International Development, University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY Acknowledgements: I would like to thank James Copestake, Allister McGregor, Laura Camfield and other collegues at the University of Bath Wellbeing and Development Research Group and Kasturi Sen (INTRAC, Oxford) for their helpful comments on this paper as well as acknowledge support from Fiona Wilson and Sarah Radcliffe. The ESRC provided the funding for this research.


International migration from Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) to the EU is important but has received relatively little attention and needs to be better understood. Data sources on LAC migration to Europe remain relatively underdeveloped (Pellegrino, 2004) because LAC migration to Europe is a relatively recent phenomenon. Yet, by way of illustration, between 1995 and 2003 the LAC population in Spain increased from 92,642 to 514,485 (Pellegrino, 2004). In Madrid they constitute more than 10% of the population1, accounting for half of all the immigrants from outside the EU. In contrast with Spain, where most of the LAC migrants in Europe can be found, in the United Kingdom, the Latin American presence is much smaller (73,785), though there is a considerable immigrant population from the Caribbean (253,176), particularly Jamaica. As in Spain, this is mostly labour migration, comprised by economically active segments of the population2. Through Latin Americans now constitute the second largest immigrant group in Spain (Altamirano, 1996, Escrivá, 1997), the literature on them is extremely limited (Jariego et al, 1999, Hernando, 2002)3.

The international migration literature has assessed migration from many different perspectives including economic, social, cultural and psychosocial aspects (e.g. Castles et al, 2006; Vertovec, 2006; Nyberg Sorensen, 2002).

However, the concept of wellbeing that focuses on the perspectives of migrants themselves, examining how their own subjective assessments of their situation correlate with more objective factors, has been largely absent from the more dominant integrationist international migration literature. To overcome this gap, this paper seeks to understand this migration by adopting a wellbeing approach and applying it to the case of Peruvian migrants based in two different societal contexts – London and Madrid.

Taking a wellbeing perspective explores not only what migrants have and do, but what they think and feel about the process.

Wellbeing is still a relatively new category in social science and no uniform definition yet exists. The concept is being applied to this research, which runs parallel with the Wellbeing and Developing Countries Research (at

Bath University):

1 st.

See ‘Spain is the New World’ Guardian Weekly, 2007, February 23-March 1.

2 st.

See ‘Spain is the New World’ Guardian Weekly, 2007, February 23-March 1.

There is also relatively little literature on Latin Americans in other countries in Europe with exceptions being Tamagno’s work (2002) on Peruvians in Italy, Mcllwaine on Latin Americans in the UK (2007). On Ecuadorians in Europe see: Moser (2007) and Pujadas and Massal (2002).

We argue for a conception of wellbeing that takes account of the objective circumstances of the person and their subjective evaluation of these. But both the objective circumstances and perceptions of them are located in society and also in the frames of meaning with which we live. Thus, wellbeing is also and necessarily a relational and dynamic concept. States of wellbeing/illbeing are continually produced in the interplay within the social, political, economic and cultural processes of human social being. It cannot be conceived just as an outcome, but must be understood also as a process (Gough and McGregor, 2007:5).

The wellbeing approach is premised on the belief that people cannot be wholly defined by their wealth or their poverty and that even the very poorest are active in constructing their wellbeing. The most recent work in this field demonstrating part of the growing interest in wellbeing has been the Wellbeing in Development Programme (WeD) at Bath University, which is conceptually based upon three main frameworks – (i) the resource profiles approach (Kebede and McGregor, 2003); (ii) a theory of human need developed by Doyal and Gough (1991) and (iii) Quality of Life Research. This literature postulates that people transform resources available to them into satisfiers and that a combination of satisfiers can result in the meeting of universal needs. Social scientists working on the umbrella concept of wellbeing have examined it from a range of different angles including research into the economics of happiness (Frey and Stutzer, 2002; Di Tella et al, 1997; Layard 2005); health-related quality of life (e.g. Skevington et al, 2004) and in the discipline of cross-cultural psychology (Berry and Sam, 1996).

Berry and Sam (1996), applying the wellbeing concept to the issue of international migration, have demonstrated the changes that occur as individuals who have developed in one cultural context manage to adapt to new contexts that themselves are changing. The blocks to achieving wellbeing can be explained as a reflection of such processes as individuals struggle to learn “a new behavioural repertoire that is appropriate for the new cultural context” (Berry and Sam, 1996: 298), with the pressures of acculturation often generating conflict or “acculturative stress”. A useful distinction is made between the concept of acculturation which refers to the cultural changes resulting from these encounters and the concepts of psychological acculturation and adaptation which he employs to refer to the psychological changes and eventual outcomes that take place as individuals adopt acculturation strategies to achieve wellbeing outcomes.

Berry’s framework is thus closely linked to the ‘identity, meaning and culture’ pillar of the new theory of wellbeing developed by Gough and McGregor (2007). Berry argues that when moving from one social context to another, individuals adopt different strategies, namely those of integration (whereby some degree of cultural integrity is maintained), assimilation (when individuals do not wish to maintain their cultural identity and seek daily contact with others), separation (when the non-dominant culture places a value on holding on to their original culture and wants to avoid interaction with others) and marginalisation (with little interest in having relations with others and where there is much cultural loss). The strategies adopted may be a combination of an individual’s pursuit of wellbeing but may also be enhanced or constrained by the broader national context in the host country.

Adaptation in accordance with the migrant’s position and perspective in this context both refers to the achievement of wellbeing in terms of psychological outcomes (such as good mental health) and also in terms of socio-cultural adaptation. Moderating factors in the acculturation process relate to factors existing in the individual’s experience prior to acculturation (age, class, language, religion, values etc) and moderating factors arising during acculturation relating to features of the dominant society (e.g.

immigration policy and attitudes to immigrants).

Whilst using a wellbeing perspective has considerable advantages for understanding the phenomenon of international migration, at the same time international migration is a useful lens for interrogating the concept of wellbeing, given the complexity of the worlds and systems of meaning that migrants necessarily have to negotiate between. This paper draws on Berry’s framework to assess the blocks to achieving wellbeing in the settings of London and Madrid. In particular it explores how people construct their wellbeing in different cultural settings and adapt as they move between different systems of meaning. The main purpose of this article is to sketch the tradeoffs that exist in their search for wellbeing in new contexts and the barriers to achieving wellbeing in new societal contexts which are analysed at individual, societal and wider structural levels. By examining both the objective factors (such as age, migratory status, length of time in country of settlement, employment in country of origin) and some of the subjective factors influencing wellbeing, it is hoped that analysis of this empirical evidence will eventually lead to a set of universal factors affecting wellbeing outcomes which operate everywhere, but whose “specific influence will vary in relation to the particular cultures in contact” (Berry and Sam, 1996: 318).


2.1 Methodology This research was conducted over a period of 18 months (2006-7). Peruvian migrants were contacted via three gatekeepers - a leader of the Latin American community based in London, one male migrant from Lima engaged in construction activities in Madrid and one female migrant from Lima engaged in geriatric care based in Madrid. Surveys were conducted with 49 migrants in London and 50 in Madrid with entry points through informal sporting events and snowballing techniques identifying a poorer sample than if entry points had been through for example, students. In addition, other entry points were used to contact female migrants including those working in domestic service or in nursing. The survey comprised closed questions on objective states of wellbeing4 and more open questions about subjective states and life satisfaction. A further 10 case studies were conducted in Lima with relatives and close friends that remain in Peru5. The survey data was pooled into an access database and the qualitative data was transcribed, coded and categorised to allow for analysis, interpretation and translation. This was followed by a post-hoc classification of a “set of blockages” or barriers to achieving wellbeing identified by the respondents.

2.2 The sample The sample included 64 men and 35 women. Ages ranged from 11 years to 80 years, but most migrants were aged between 21 and 40. They represented a highly economically active segment of the population. 79 of the 99 were from Lima but many of these had been born in other provinces in Peru6. 39 of the sample were single, 29 were married and 20 were divorced. 24 had partners that lived with them and 21 had partners living in Peru. A similar split could be seen with those with children. In 22 cases the children lived with the migrant and in 26 cases their children were still in Peru. In terms of education, the most common were the following: 26 had secondary education, 28 had been to a technical college and 27 had attended university. 15 in the sample had been out of their country of origin for 2-3 years and 23 for 4-6 years. Most had been living in the UK or Spain for a maximum of 1-2 years. In terms of occupations in the country of origin most were working in the service sector or in the informal economy. As regards employment status, in London, 27 were working legally and 13 The focus of this article is on the subjective states; objective states are not analysed here.

The case studies are not analysed here but form the subject of a separate paper (WrightRevolledo, forthcoming).

The others came from: Chosica (4), Chiclayo (1), Trujillo (3), Huancayo (3), Junin (1), Canete (1) and Cusco (1).

illegally. In Madrid, 35 were working legally and 10 illegally. In terms of income, the majority were earning between £4,000 and £12,000 per year.

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