Background: Levels of internal migration vary significantly between countries. Australia and the United States consistently record among the highest levels of migration anywhere in the world. Very little is known, however, about the factors underlying mobility differentials. We argue that this is because existing evidence is almost exclusively based on period measures applied to cross-sectional data.
Aims: We seek to advance understanding of cross-national variations in levels of residential mobility by drawing on a newly proposed suite of cohort migration measures, coupled with the recent release of internationally comparable retrospective residential history data.
Data and methods: Focusing on the early cohort of baby boomers born between 1947 and 1951, the paper examines residential mobility levels and patterns in early and mid-adulthood in Australia and the United States and compares them with 14 European countries. Differences in completed levels of residential mobility are assessed in terms of four components: the proportion of a cohort who moved at least once; mean age at first move; mean age at last move; and average interval between moves.
Results: While cohort analysis confirms high levels of mobility in Australia and the United States, it does not support the notion of a common ‘new world’ mobility regime distinct from other advanced economies.
Conclusion: A cohort perspective offers refined insights into population mobility. The increasing availability of retrospective survey data means that researchers can now apply cohort measures to a wide range of countries.
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