Home moves in early years: The impact on children in UK and US

Latest publications: Special issue of Longitudinal and Life Course Studies

Is the upheaval of moving home detrimental to young children’s development? In a special issue of Longitudinal and Life Course Studies, Prof Heather Joshi and colleagues explore this question in the context of the US and UK. They come to the conclusion that moving home in and of itself is no bad thing – instead it is the constellation of difficulties that contribute to poor home moves for disadvantaged families that policymakers need to address.

Read the full papers

Full issue: Moving home and children's wellbeing (July 2016), a special issue of Longitudinal and Life Course Studies, Volume 7, No 3.

GUEST EDITORIAL - 'Residential mobility and wellbeing: exploring children’s living situations and their implications for housing policy' by Mary Clare Lennon, William A.V. Clark, Heather Joshi

'Moving to a better place? The outcomes of residential mobility among families with young children in the Millennium Cohort Study' by Ludovica Gambaro, Heather Joshi and Ruth Lupton
This paper assesses how far residential moves can result in improvement or deterioration of the housing and neighbourhood circumstances for families with young children.

'Measuring the impact of residential mobility on response: evidence from the Millennium Cohort Study' by Tarek Mostafa
This paper examines the relationship between residential mobility and unit non-response in the first five waves of the UK Millennium Cohort Study (MCS).

'Life events and moves under duress: disruption in the life course and mobility outcomes' by William A.V. Clark
This article reviews our broad understanding of life course triggering events and then examines just what happens when families move following a destabilising event (involuntary moves, loss of job, divorce and separation).

'Home moves and child wellbeing in the first five years of life in the United States' by Brenden Beck, Anthony Buttaro Jr., Mary Clare Lennon
This article uses data from the first four waves of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to analyse precursors of residential mobility and the association of residential mobility with child behavior and cognitive capabilities at age five

'Moving home in the early years: what happens to children in the UK?' by Ludovica Gambaro, Heather Joshi
This article first presents evidence from the first five years of the UK Millennium Cohort Study about who moved, how often and why. The authors then investigate the relationship between the number of moves and child outcomes.

'Housing policies and their relationship to residential moves for families with young children' by Ruth Lupton
This article explores how advantaging moves could be facilitated and disadvantaging ones minimized, through housing policy.

About the project

The project is designed to establish how much and in what circumstances moving home can be said to harm or enhance child development, and the extent to which the greater rate of early years home moving in the US, compared to UK, may be reflected in greater difficulties for  children.  We ask whether transition towards a freer housing market in UK may have unintended effects on children.

The project is confined to the first five years of the children's lives as the early years have been particularly neglected in the literature. The results will, however, form a basis for future study of residential and school mobility once the children pass into school ages.

Data sources

We compare two large samples of families who had a baby around 2000: the Fragile Families and Wellbeing Study in US and the Millennium Cohort Study in UK. We will follow these families and where they lived up to age 5. There is a host of information about parental capabilities and circumstances which may help account for why they moved (or not) and how well their children progress. We will be able to gauge child progress in a comparable way on behavioural adjustment, verbal ability and their general health.


We will describe how many families, in each country, move home in a child's first five years, when, how often, how far, and reasons given. We will classify  moves as resulting in better or worse housing, parental employment or neighbourhood than the situation movers left behind, and compare movers with stayers.  We then model  the various precursors of moving.  and outcomes for children of various sorts of moves. The models will be as comparable as possible between two countries to see if the different residential stability regimes are reflected in different child outcomes. Care will be taken to derive indicators as closely comparable as possible on such key variables as neighbourhood quality and family poverty status.


The resulting derived variables will be made available for use by other researchers, and introduced to them, along with findings in workshops in London and New York.  Another event is planned to discuss the relevance of findings to British housing policy.

Previous publications

Gambaro, Ludovica, Joshi, Heather, Lupton, Ruth, Fenton, Alex, Lennon, Mary Clare (2015) 'Developing Better Measures of Neighbourhood Characteristics and Change for Use in Studies of Residential Mobility: A Case Study of Britain in the Early 2000s', August 2015, Applied Spatial Analysis and Policy.

Joshi, Heather, Gambaro, Ludovica, Mostafa, Tarek, Lupton, Ruth, Lennon, Mary Clare, Buttaro, Anthony & Brenden Beck (2015) 'Moving home in the early years: Family and child outcomes in the UK and US', May 2015, QSS Briefing Paper, IOE London.

Appendix to the briefing paper: Moving home in the early years: Family and child outcomes in the UK and US, May 2015, QSS Briefing Paper, IOE London.

Gambaro, Lupton & Joshi, Lennon (2014) 'A Pragmatic Approach to Measuring Neighbourhood Poverty Change', March 2014, QSS Working Paper, IOE London.

CLS contact:

Heather Joshi,

Principal Investigator and Emeritus Professor

Heather is an economic demographer who has used a number of longitudinal datasets including the ONS LS. Her research has been mainly concerned with the family, the labour market, gender, child development, but also includes spatial issues. Email Heather.

Project team:

Mary Clare Lennon, Co-investigator,

City University of New York

Ruth Lupton, Co-investigator, University of Manchester

Anthony Buttaro,

City University of New York

Ludovica Gambaro , CLS