Is Internal Migration Slowing? An Analysis of Four Decades of NHSCR Records for England and Wales
This paper is prompted by the widespread acceptance that the rates of inter-county and inter-state migration have been falling in the USA and sets itself the task of examining whether this decline in migration intensities is also the case in the UK. It uses the inter-area migration matrices available for England and Wales from the National Health Service Central Register (NHSCR) which provides continuous monitoring since the 1970s by broad age group. The main methodological challenge, arising from changes in the geography of health areas for which the inter-area flows are given, is addressed by adopting the lowest common denominator of 80 areas. Care is also taken to allow for the effect of business cycles in producing short-term fluctuations on migration rates and to isolate the effect of a sharp rise in rates for 16-24 year olds in the 1990s, which is presumed to be related to the expansion of the university sector. The findings suggest that, unlike for the USA, there has not been a substantial decline in the intensity of internal migration between the first two decades of the study period and the second two. While there was a 3 per cent reduction in the overall rate of migration between the regions of England and Wales between 1975-1990 and 1996-2011 (omitting the 16-24s), the rate for within-region moves between areas was some 10 per cent higher in the latter period. The main evidence for decline relates to particular age groups of between-region migration, where the rate for those aged 65 and over shrank by a quarter and that for 0-15 year olds was down by a tenth. In general, however, if there has been any major decline in the intensity of address changing in England and Wales, it can only be for the shortest-distance (within area) moves that the NHSCR does not record.
6 July 2015 Paper Number SERCDP0176
This SERC/Urban and Spatial Programme Discussion Paper is published under the centre's Urban programme.