On the move

Toy houses

26 January 2011

Moving house is a huge upheaval, yet the decision to do so is based more on people’s perceptions of a neighbourhood rather than the reality. Married couples are also more likely to move if a woman dislikes a neighbourhood than if her husband does.

Dr Mark Taylor and Dr Birgitta Rabe, of the Institute for Social and Economic Research, examined data from more than 4,000 households across the UK and found a big difference between the sexes when it came to decisions on whether to relocate.

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 have on whether people move to a 'better' or 'worse' neighbourhood. Yet neighbourhood characteristics influence important outcomes such as life satisfaction, health and employment."

Using information from the British Household Panel Survey, researchers looked at whether people moved for subjective reasons - liking or not liking the neighbourhood, for example - or used more objective criteria such as crime rates and employment. Living in a neighbourhood that a wife likes reduces the relative odds of a move by 89 per cent compared with 46 per cent for a husband. People’s perceptions also had a greater influence on the decision to move than reality.

Single people were more influenced by subjective rather than objective measures. Liking the neighbourhood reduced the relative odds of moving by about 60 per cent compared to not liking the neighbourhood.

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 were associated with single people moving to more deprived neighbourhoods.

Birgitta Rabe said: "Most employment-related events have no effect on the quality of the neighbourhood that the couples move to. The only such event that seriously affects couples is a husband becoming unemployed. This leads to moves into more deprived areas and is likely to have repercussions for the whole family."

The research findings are published in the study Residential mobility, neighbourhood quality and life-course events.

From the ESRC magazine Britain in 2011