Academic journal article Cityscape

Moving and Staying in Los Angeles Neighborhoods: Money Matters, but So Does Family Composition

Academic journal article Cityscape

Moving and Staying in Los Angeles Neighborhoods: Money Matters, but So Does Family Composition

Article excerpt


In this article, I use data from the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Study to examine the residential selections that households and individuals make when they change residences and, in particular, the relationship between their choices and their socioeconomic status. I evaluate outcomes across neighborhoods grouped into deciles and quintiles of advantage and disadvantage, where the neighborhoods are allocated to groupings of advantage and disadvantage based on the first factor of a principal components analysis.

Resources-income, homeownership, and education-play important roles in neighborhood selection and can also affect the decision to move. Commonly accepted, and as demonstrated in this study, households on the whole move short distances within cities, and, thus, where an individual originates has an important effect on his or her ability to positively change his or her neighborhood status. The research shows that family composition and ethnicity can constrain how much of a change in outcome is possible with a move and highlights the difficulty of neighborhood or household interventions intended to improve outcomes after a move. Modest evidence points to an increase in satisfaction when households move up the hierarchy of the sociospatial scale.


Interest is increasing among researchers as to what role places can play in the outcomes of families and individuals. It seems reasonable to expect that where a person lives can influence a wide variety of outcomes such as access to schools, health care, and jobs, hence the continuing research interest in the role of neighborhoods and communities in the urban fabric. Although an extensive literature addresses mobility across low-income and poverty neighborhoods and whether or not households in poor neighborhoods can escape those environments, the broad spectrum of neighborhoods has received less attention. Often, the focus is on movers and less is known about stayers or those who move within similar kinds of neighborhoods. Thus, it is useful to put the mobility across low-income neighborhoods into a wider perspective, while at the same time not losing interest in the problems of low-income movers. The research in this article aims to broaden the interest from deprived neighborhoods to the whole range of socioeconomic statuses within the urban fabric, and to contrast the outcomes at the different ends of the spectrum of income and education.

A significant body of research has established that residential mobility is a function of age, tenure (homeowner or renter), family status (income level, education level), the demand for living space, and changes in household composition. Less developed is the outcome of residence change. Although it is generally assumed that people move to improve, in many cases mobility is not voluntary and people do not always gain from residential changes. These questions then arise: Which households make gains in neighborhood quality? Do families who move make, at the least, subjective gains after moving? Specifically, the article examines a set of questions about neighborhood outcomes and individual levels of satisfaction from the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey (LAFANS).

It is common knowledge that cities are divided by socioeconomic status and that the division has a spatial pattern. It is this pattern that is summarized in neighborhoods, leading to the question: How do people sort themselves into these spatial units? The research in this article is about that sorting process - about the outcomes of residential relocation within the structure of the city. The survey asks these questions: (1) Which of the families who move are able to locate to better neighborhoods and which are not? (2) What are the differences between those who stay in their neighborhood, those who move within a similar neighborhood type, and those who move to more or less advantaged neighborhoods? (3) Are families who move and make gains in neighborhood quality more satisfied than those who move but do not make neighborhood quality gains? …

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