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SERC/Urban and Spatial Programme Discussion Paper

Are People Moving Home Less? An Analysis of Address Changing in England and Wales, 1971-2011, Using the ONS Longitudinal Study


Expectations of migration and mobility steadily increasing in the longer term, which have a long currency in migration theory and related social science, are at odds with the latest US research showing a marked decline in internal migration rates. Given the similarity in demographic, economic and social trends between the USA and the UK, this paper reports the results of research that investigates whether the latter has been experienced any similar change in more recent decades. Using the Office for National Statistics Longitudinal Study (ONS-LS) of linked census records, it examines the evidence provided by its 10-year migration indicator, with particular attention to a comparison of the first and latest decades available, 1971-1981 and 2001-2011. This suggests that, as in the USA, there has been a marked reduction in the level of shorter-distance (less than 10km) moving that has involved almost all types of people. In contrast to this and to US experience, however, the propensity of people to make longer-distance address changes between decennial censuses has declined much less, though the 2.6% fall between the 1970s and the 2000s may be an underestimate owing to the inclusion of moves to and from university in the latest decade. This finding is consistent with the results of a companion study which analysed data on migration between the health areas of England and Wales (Champion and Shuttleworth, 2015). There is therefore a strong case for now probing the causes of the sharp reduction in shorter-distance moving in Britain as well as the USA, as well as for investigating why the two countries differ in terms of their experience of longer-distance migration trends.


Tony Champion and Ian Shuttleworth

6 July 2015     Paper Number SERCDP0177

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This SERC/Urban and Spatial Programme Discussion Paper is published under the centre's Urban programme.