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Moving to a new place during childhood is becoming less common across Europe

Adopting a child-centered perspective, Alon Pertzikovitz, Gusta G. Wachter, and Helga A. G. de Valk demonstrate how childhood migration has declined since the 1970s, highlighting the connection between this trend and the postponement of fertility in Europe.
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For children, as for their parents, moving to a different geographical location is a life-changing event. For some, internal migration can be a positive experience, such as when they move to a better environment or develop resilience and learn to cope with major life changes. However, for others, the loss of social connections or the stress from repeated moves can have negative consequences. 

Despite these considerations, we know very little about how frequently children move, at what ages moving is typically experienced, whether internal migration in childhood is more common in certain European countries than in others, and how these patterns have developed over time. To answer these questions, a new study by Alon Pertzikovitz, Gusta Wachter, and Helga de Valk explores how internal migration in childhood has developed across Europe.

Drawing on retrospective residential histories from the SHARE survey, the experts analysed the completed childhood internal migration trajectories of 178,476 individuals born between 1935 and 1994 in 28 European countries. A completed migration trajectory refers to the number of residential changes within a country a person experienced throughout childhood, and the age at which each move occurred. Using these unique data, the primary aim of the study was to describe the evolution of childhood internal migration across Europe. In a second step, the authors explored whether the fact that nowadays children are born to older, and therefore presumably to more geographically stable, parents, is linked to recent trends in childhood migration rates.

Their findings revealed a long-lasting geographical variation in childhood migration, with higher migration rates in Northern and Western Europe, intermediate rates in Southern Europe and the Baltic states, and lower rates in Eastern and Southeastern Europe. Despite these regional differences, in almost all countries, over the past several decades internal migration has gradually become a less common experience for children, and when children move, they tend to experience it at increasingly younger ages. These trends were observed since the mid-1960s in Northern and Western countries, later in the Southern region, and only since the 1980s in Eastern Europe. 

Interestingly, the onset of childhood migration declines coincides with the outset of shifts in the timing of childbearing from younger to older reproductive ages. The final analysis of the article confirmed, at least in part, the suspected link between fertility postponement and decreasing rates of childhood migration. These findings emphasize how the evolving dynamics of adult family life are indirectly shaping children’s life courses and childhood experiences, including migration.



This study is part of the MyMove project funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No. 819298, PI: Helga A.G. de Valk). 


Additional Information


Alon Pertzikovitz

Authors of Original Article


Pertzikovitz, A., Wachter, G.G. & de Valk, H.A.G. (2024). Childhood internal migration in Europe: Developments across cohorts and countries. Population, Space and Place, doi: