Socio-spatial mobility in British society

Publication type

Research Paper

Series Number



IZA Discussion Papers


Publication date

July 15, 2011


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





Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author


Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society


Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs


Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report


Key research themes and areas of interest