"I didn't even want to move here anyway!"

Why don’t people move house when it would be good for them? Why do some people who claim they want to move never do? And how united actually are couples in their reasons for moving on?

Residential mobility was just one of the many themes covered at the first day of the Understanding Society Research Conference 2013. Now in its seventh year, the conference also put Marriage, Environment, the Labour Market, Working Time and Health on the agenda to ensure a stimulating start to the three-day event.

Following an Welcome speech by ISER Director Heather Laurie, Delft University’s Maarten van Ham launched into his keynote speech ‘Linking Lives through Time and Space.’

Household desires

Touching on themes around data visualisation and lifecourse theory, van Ham was able to show the advantages of utilising longitudinal data when examining the reasons why people move – or don’t move.

For example, many studies only interview a single household member and assume that others in the same residence have the same desire to move.

Three-dimensions reveal bigger picture

By utilising longitudinal data such as GeoSweden plus BHPS, van Ham was able to build up a three-dimensional picture, adding gender, couples and ethnicity to the mix. Early findings indicate that for all ages, 20% of couples seem to disagree whether a move is desirable – revealing an extra layer of insight that would not be possible without ‘deep’ longitudinal data.

Prof. Maarten van Ham said:

“Immobility is not an event; it’s a state. But it’s very important to understand how neighbourhoods develop over time. For this, you need geo-referenced longitudinal data from which you can link so many things – wider family members, work colleagues and so on.”

Using visualisation, highly complex results can be simplified into a graphical format whereby the individual’s entire mobility can be tracked over many years.

By classifying individuals into mobility types such as ‘wishful thinkers’ (those who never move despite regularly expressing a moving desire) and ‘discontented movers’ (those typically wanting to move as soon as they have relocated), a fascinating picture is unveiled.

Different coloured lines reveal fascinating patterns over 16 years, for example, some people in the survey repeatedly say they want to move – but never actually do.

The differences between couples

The theme of ‘what motivates residential mobility’ was picked up in one of the first parallel sessions by van Ham’s collaborator, Dr Rory Coulter of Cambridge University.

Dr Coulter explained how, by utilising data such as the BHPS/Understanding Society, we can now understand more about peoples’ expressed reasons for moving – and why researchers can afford to question key data findings.

He revealed how, by comparing the answers of different household members, we can now look at whether couples report the same reasons to move. Initial findings reveal for example that while couples agree on jobs as a key motivation to pack the bags, agreement around family and area is less consistent.

For more updates like these, keep an eye on this page throughout the conference. Read the programme here

Photo credit: wetwebwork