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Moving out from the city – a study on families’ migration strategies for social sustainable living outside metropolitan areas

Research project Increasingly, families are moving out from metropolitan areas with expectations of a more social sustainable life. The project investigates these families’ migration strategies in relation to the organisation of daily life and geographical context. Moving from a metropolitan area imply a reorganization of the families’ daily life regarding housing, work and commuting.

The project will with individual register data analyse how these various aspects in families’ daily life enhance or restrict the families' preconditions for moving from a metropolitan area and how the move changes the organisatiton of daily life in various geographical contexts, as well as explore potential effects on (in)equalities in families’ organisation of daily life. The point of departure is to view the move as a strategy to improve the families’ daily life to be more social sustainable.

Head of project

Erika Sandow
Associate professor

Project overview

Project period:

2017-01-01 2019-12-31


Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare , 2017-2019: SEK 2,880,000

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Centre for Demographic and Ageing Research (CEDAR), Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences

Research area

Human geography

Project description

Increasingly, families with young children are moving out from the Swedish metropolitan areas of Stockholm, Malmö and Gothenburg. These so-called counter-urban moves will affect the country’s population distribution as well as the living conditions for these families. In this research project the counter-urban migration patterns in Sweden will be investigated. The point of departure is to view these moves from the big city as a strategy to improve the family’s daily life to become more social sustainable.

While researchers have tried to explain various aspects of counterurbanisation the preconditions for counter-urban migration have changed in the last decades. Today prevailing conditions on the labour market, such as possibilities for telework, flexible working hours and commuting, are likely to enhance or restrict the preconditions for relocating to a better organised daily life outside the metropolitan context. Likewise, life-course events regarding changing housing situations, lifestyles and family formation are also factors likely to shape migration strategies. Presently there is a lack in counter-urban research on how such various aspects in families’ daily life shapes their migration decision and affects women and men differently the experiences of the move.

With the rapid urban growth comes an overheated housing market. A strategy for families seeking convenient and affordable housing might be to use improved opportunities for commuting and the expansion of labour markets and move to the hinterlands of metropolitan areas and thus accept a longer commuting time. Another strategy might be to move to a smaller labour market region to find work with a shorter commuting time. In families where both parents work the daily life has to be coordinated with regard to two careers, which can be more complicated if both commute long distances. It is therefore important to understand how a possible job change and a longer or shorter commuting time influence families' migration strategies and how women and men are affected differently. Past counter-urban research in Sweden has largely focused on how out-migration from cities shapes population development and the rural labour markets and there is a lack of knowledge of how the general pattern of counter-urban migration has evolved over the past 10 years. More research is also needed on how different events and circumstances of the families' everyday life shapes their migration strategies.

This project will analyse the contemporary counter-urban migration behaviour among families with young children in Sweden within the framework that the move is a relocation strategy to improve the preconditions for a more social sustainable daily life. The focus will be on young families in the age of 25-40 who have migrated from a metropolitan area (Stockholm, Malmö or Gothenburg) during the last decade. Through using large-scale quantitative analysis, the project will with longitudinal register data on an individual level (i) analyse families counter-urban migration behaviour in relation to their work, housing, commuting, family situation and geographical context prior and after the move (ii) examine how factors related to the families’ organisation of daily life (e.g. work, housing, commuting and family situation) shapes their migration strategies and (iii) examine the outcomes of these strategies and explore possible gender (in)-equalities related to the migration strategies.  

The results will add to knowledge that can contribute to a relevant basis for future coordinated planning of cities, towns and rural areas by providing knowledge of contemporary trends of urbanisation and counter-urbanisation, as well as an understanding of families' experiences of migration and commuting strategies to create a socially sustainable everyday life.

Keywords: migration, commuting, families, social sustainability, cities, migration strategies
Latest update: 2021-10-27