Researchers from Lancaster University are investigating new trends in migration suggesting that divorce rather than jobs is setting the pattern in 1990s Britain.
People in Lancashire and Yorkshire who have recently moved house have been interviewed by academics from the geography department in an attempt to understand not only why they move but also the resulting changes in family relationships.
"By analysing large bodies of statistics like census data we can find patterns in the characteristics of people who move," says Lynn Hayes, research associate on the project. "But what we can't get from the statistics is why?" Two research methodologies were therefore combined. When Dr Hayes has completed her interviews she will go back to the statistics to check whether they support the results.
Some survey evidence has already shown that much migration occurs for family reasons. Dr Hayes and her team are concentrating their efforts therefore on uncovering how life events like marriage, divorce, birth of children and the care of elderly relatives affect decisions to move.
"I want to find out how the family gets involved in these decisions," she says. "Where the family fits in, if an elderly relative is living with the family for instance, I want to find out how it came about. What about other family members, did they get involved in the decision?" Britain has an ageing population. People are living longer and fewer children are being born. "With so much divorce people can have several sets of in-laws who potentially call on their time," added Dr Hayes.
Dr Hayes said previous academic research into migration had overlooked personal and family motives focusing instead on occupational change. "We argue that life is rarely that simple," Dr Hayes said. "There is so much more divorce today and this is an important factor in building patterns of migration."
Other factors influencing decisions to move, such as a better standard of living for children or moving to be near relatives, would be taken into account. Dr Hayes said 60 in-depth interviews were being conducted involving families experiencing either divorce or caring for an elderly relative.
Preliminary research findings are expected to be published next year.