Working Paper

Moving on and moving out: the implications of socio-spatial mobility for union stability



Shapira M, Gayle V & Graham E (2017) Moving on and moving out: the implications of socio-spatial mobility for union stability.

This study explores the role of family migration in life course of couples. We ask whether internal migration and residential mobility for contemporary dual-earner couples has negative consequences for the stability of their partnership and investigate whether any negative changes in partners’ employment characteristics following family migration are associated with higher risks of dissolution of their unions.  We use the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), which provides nationally representative data on households and couples, over the period of 18 years and has a wide range of potentially important prospective and retrospective information on households and individuals. We undertake a duration analysis of union dissolution by modelling the hazard of union dissolution.  The findings show that union stability is affected by spatial moves – geographically mobile couples are at higher risk of union dissolution. Long distance internal migration and frequent moves increase the risk, while short-distance residential moves are associated with greater union stability. Overall, we found that the negative effect of family migration on union stability is relatively small and decreases over-the-time. Similarly, positive effect that some types of migration might have on union stability also tend to decrease over-the-time. We found that the risk of union dissolution is better explained by partners’ socio-demographic characteristics (age, level of education), and by the characteristics of their union such as its type and duration. Union stability is also associated with the employment and occupational characteristics of both partners, as well as with changes in these characteristics. Negative changes in occupational position or employment status of either partner, but especially of the male partner increase the risk of union dissolution.  We found some evidence that the impact of the negative changes in employment characteristics of geographically mobile couple post-migration on the stability of their union is mediated by the gender of the partner who experienced these changes. Negative changes in the employment status of the male partner post-migration increase the risk of union dissolution, while negative changes in female partner’s employment post-migration decrease that risk. We did not find any evidence supporting the ‘trailing spouse’ hypothesis which suggests that stability of the union is at risk if the female partner experiences negative changes in her employment status/occupational position post-migration. We also found that the risk to the union’s stability is the highest immediately after the adverse changes in the male partner employment status happen but the risk is reducing with the passage of time.

spatial mobility; socio-economic mobility; family life; longitudinal analysis; BHPS

Publication date online31/12/2017

People (1)


Dr Marina Shapira

Dr Marina Shapira

Associate Professor, Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology

Files (1)