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Migration and social mobility: South East England as an escalator region

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 17:09 authored by Tony Fielding
This paper uses data from the OPCS Longitudinal Study and the National Health Service Central Register to examine the contention that the South East region of England acts as a kind of ‘upward social class escalator’ within the British urban and regional system. To establish that this is so it is shown firstly, that the South East attracts to itself through inter-regional migration a more than proportional share of the potentially upwardly mobile young adults; secondly, that it promotes these young people along with its own young adults at rates which are higher than elsewhere in the country; and finally, that a significant proportion of those who achieve these higher levels of status and pay then ‘step off’ the escalator. They do this by migrating away from the South East at later stages of their working lives and at or near to retirement. The analysis is then extended in two respects. Firstly, the general connections between inter-regional migration and occupational class mobility are examined. It is shown that the association between the two is strongly positive, and that migration to the South East seems to be one of the most important factors favouring upward social mobility. Secondly, and by way of qualification to what has gone before, the complexities of the South East's migration situation are explored more fully to show that, although very useful, the escalator metaphor has its limitations and cannot be relied upon to illuminate all aspects of the migration flows to and from the region.


Publication status

  • Published


Regional Studies




Taylor & Francis





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Department affiliated with

  • Geography Publications

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Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

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