02 November 2009

Research looks into what makes people move

Colchester Campus

Married couples are much more likely to move if a woman dislikes a neighbourhood than if her husband does. That is one of the findings from new research at the Institute for Social and Economic Research, which also concludes that the decision to move is based more on people’s perceptions of a neighbourhood than the reality.

Using information from the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), Dr Mark Taylor and Dr Birgitta Rabe looked at data from more than 4,000 households in 30,000 different neighbourhoods across the UK and found a big difference between the sexes when it came to influencing decisions on whether to relocate.

The findings were part of a research paper called Residential mobility, neighbourhood quality and life-course events. Explaining the background to the research, Dr Taylor said: "Life-course events like having a baby, losing a job or splitting up are often associated with moving house. But not much is known about the effect that these types of events have on whether people move to a “better” or 'worse' neighbourhood. This is quite surprising because research suggests that neighbourhood characteristics influence important outcomes such as life satisfaction, health and employment."

The University of Essex researchers looked at whether people moved for subjective reasons – for example liking or not liking the neighbourhood or used more established objective criteria such as crime rates and employment opportunities. They found that people’s perceptions had a greater influence on the decision to move than reality.

Commenting on the finding that couples were more likely to move if the woman disliked the neighbourhood, Dr Taylor added: 'The study does not tell us why that is, but we can make some educated guesses. Mine would be that it is about relative amounts of time spent in the home or neighbourhood. On average, it is the woman who spends more time there.'

The research also found that for singles and couples, many life-course events such as taking up a new job, partnership break-up, a child leaving home and leaving the parental home were associated with moving house. Among the objective measures of neighbourhood deprivation, crime and the quality of the local environment both within and beyond the home were most important. Ceasing to live with parents or having a child leave home was associated with single people moving into more deprived neighbourhoods.

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