Linking life events and stated reasons for moving over the life course

Rory Coulter, University of Cambridge

Rory Coulter

Co Authors
Jacqueline Scott

Life course; migration; residential mobility

Since the publication of Peter Rossi’s Why Families Move in 1955, understanding the motivations driving residential mobility has become a key objective for social scientists and policy makers. While a growing number of studies have used survey data to analyse reported reasons for moving, much of our knowledge of why people move derives from inferences drawn from observed mobility patterns. Little is known about the correspondence between inferred and stated reasons for moving, or how these relationships may vary over the life course. As a result, this paper uses 1991-2008 data from the British Household Panel Survey to analyse how stated reasons for moving vary over the life course. The paper then explores how life events are associated with reported reasons for having moved. The results reveal large differences in reported reasons for moving across different stages of the life course. Importantly, both bivariate and panel modelling analyses show that people often report different reasons for having moved than we might expect from analysing their life course trajectories. Reported reasons for moving also frequently vary within families. We argue that this suggests that cognitive models of mobility decision-making can be problematic. Overall, the results highlight the importance of integrating subjective and event based data to better understand why people move.