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Research Paper IZA Discussion Papers 5861

Socio-spatial mobility in British society


Publication date

Jul 2011


The research reported in this paper examines the nature and extent of socio-spatial mobilityin the United Kingdom. In contrast with previous studies, we do not only investigate whomoves out of deprived neighbourhoods, but our models cover the entire spectrum ofneighbourhoods and provide a more complete interpretation of the process of mobility acrosssocio-spatial structures. We use the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) to classifyneighbourhoods defined as small areas containing approximately 1500 people. We use thedata from all available waves of the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) to trace movesbetween these neighbourhoods, classified into deprivation deciles. We define upward sociospatialmobility as moving to neighbourhoods with lower levels of deprivation. The focus onresidential choices and the outcomes – residential sorting – allows us to measure the fluidityof the British social structure. We show that restricted ability to compete for the betterneighbourhoods combines with residence in neighbourhoods with relatively high degrees ofdeprivation to limit opportunities for social mobility. The analysis shows that education andincome play critical roles in the ability of individuals to make neighbourhood and decile gainswhen they move. There are also powerful roles of being unemployed and being (andbecoming) a social renter. Both these latter effects combine to seriously restrict thepossibilities for socio-spatial movement for certain groups. The results suggest seriousstructural barriers to socio-spatial mobility in British society, barriers which are directly relatedto the organisation of the housing market.


Area Effects, Social Structure, Migration, Poverty, and Social Mobility



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