Academic journal article Population

Why People Stay: The Impact of Community Context on Nonmigration in the USA

Academic journal article Population

Why People Stay: The Impact of Community Context on Nonmigration in the USA

Article excerpt

Why are individuals more prone to leave some communities than others? Migration studies consistently find that out-migration behaviour is predicated both upon individual characteristics and events affecting those individuals. For instance, people in their 20s are more likely to leave an area in any given period. Likewise, adults with school-age children often consider moving to school districts that are perceived to be better. To be sure, the decision to migrate is influenced by individual characteristics, but is this all that determines migration?

Aggregate analyses have shown that in some areas vibrant social and economic conditions are stemming the rates of out-migration. Previous work has shown that communities with a civically engaged citizenry and with locally oriented businesses also have higher proportions of non-migrants (Irwin, Tolbert and Lyson 1997; Irwin, Tolbert and Lyson, 1999; Tolbert, Irwin, Lyson and Nucci, 2002). This civic community perspective highlights the importance of community-building social institutions, such as small retail shops and local associations, in creating sustainable community development. These elements of civic communities may well provide social conditions that moderate the probabilities of migration associated with individual characteristics like age and presence of children. However, empirical research on the effect of communities upon individual behaviour has been rare despite a pervasive social science theoretical legacy which assumes that individuals' actions are influenced by the characteristics of the communities in which they live (Entwisle, Casterline and Sayed 1989; Young 1999). Lee, Oropesa and Kanan (1994) note that despite the widespread theoretical appeal of this notion, methodological problems have made it difficult to verify empirically.

In the current study we overcome many of these methodological problems by using multilevel statistical techniques in conjunction with uniquely comprehensive data. We identify and evaluate local macro-level conditions that lead individuals to stay rather than leave their communities. Our research objectives are to specify the relationship between community context and individual migration behaviour using a theoretically grounded approach based on those social and cultural factors suggested by the civic community theory. The civic community is one in which residents are bound to place by a plethora of local institutions and organizations (Irwin et al. 1997). Business enterprises are embedded in institutional and organizational networks (Piore and Sabel, 1984; Bagnasco and Sabel, 1995). And the community, not the corporation, is the source of personal identity, the topic of social discourse, and the foundation for social cohesion (Barber, 1995).

Moorer and Suurmeijer (2001) note a general lack of theoretically grounded multilevel analysis linking micro-level activity to larger community contexts in this area in urban studies. Geographers and epidemiologists have been more active in specifying concepts applicable to the study of larger ecological structure (Jones and Duncan, 1995). These researchers have used multilevel modelling to develop hypotheses about the nature of relationships between individual behaviour and attitudes and community structure (Kalff et al., 2001; Pickett and Pearl, 2001; Subramanian, Duncan and Jones, 2001; Wikstrom and Loeber, 2000). Their work highlights the study of multilevel interactions in illuminating relationships between individual behaviour (including mobility decisions) and community context. For policy makers, the identification and assessment of micro-macro interactions are seen as a missing link in residential mobility and migration analyses that are central to residential housing policy (Li and Wu, 2004). As Theodori noted:

"Little justification has been found for programs directed at strengthening community satisfaction and/or attachment; a possible reason is that little is known about their potential effects on the individual- and community-level issues" (Theodori, 2001). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.