Examining the influence of major life events as drivers of residential mobility and neighbourhood transitions

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BACKGROUND: Residential mobility and internal migration have long been key foci of research across a range of disciplines. However, the analytical strategies adopted in many studies are unable to unpick the drivers of mobility in sufficient detail because of two issues prevalent within the literature; a lack of detail on the individual context of people’s lives and a failure to apply longitudinal methods.

OBJECTIVE/METHODS: Using detailed data from a UK birth cohort study, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), and a multilevel recurrent event history analysis approach, this paper overcomes these two major limitations to present a number of findings.

RESULTS: Most life events increase the likelihood of moving, though there is little evidence that they precede upwards or downwards mobility into more or less deprived neighbourhoods. The findings also suggest that families living in poor homes and neighbourhoods are more likely to be stuck in place following certain negative life events than those in good environments.

CONCLUSIONS: While broad demographic and socio-economic characteristics reliably account for mobility patterns, the occurrence of life events and opinions of the living environment are necessary for a full understanding of mobility patterns. Future studies should strive to account for such detailed data.

CONTRIBUTION: We demonstrate the important impact that a wide range of life events has on the mobility of families, and provide evidence that studies unable to account for major life events likely do not suffer strong bias results through unobserved confounding.
Original languageEnglish
Article number35
Pages (from-to)1015-1038
Number of pages24
JournalDemographic Research
Early online date30 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017


  • Residential mobility
  • life events
  • event history analysis
  • life course
  • migration
  • birth cohort study

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