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  August 28, 2000

Study Shows Moving has
Adverse Effects on Women

When a couple moves, it is typically the woman's career that suffers. This occurs even when the wife has a higher-status or higher-paying job, suggesting that the economic benefits often associated with migration are linked to gender roles.

These are the findings of two inter-related studies by Thomas Cooke, assistant professor of geography.

In the first study - the most comprehensive analysis so far of the effects of family moves on women's employment status in two countries - Cooke and his British colleagues examined census data from the United States and Great Britain. They studied the moves of married and cohabiting couples.

"Our study also demonstrates that while migration is usually assumed to be associated with economic betterment, this is not the case for all groups," the researchers write. "While migration may be beneficial economically for single individuals, that is not necessarily the case for partnered individuals."

The members of each couple were divided into three categories: long-distance migrants who moved with their partner; long-distance migrants who moved separately from their partner, also called joining migrants; and people who didn't migrate or moved less than 50 kilometers.

The findings, detailed in an article in the International Journal of Population Geography, show that following a move, women who moved a long distance with their partners were the most likely to be unemployed or economically inactive.

In a related study, Environment and Planning A, Cooke examines how the effects of migration changed with the birth of a first child.

The consequences of family migration for a married woman's employment status were largely contingent upon whether she had a child, he finds. Following a move, women without children experienced at worst a small temporary decline in employment. By contrast, says Cooke, mothers who moved experienced a sizeable long-term decline in employment.

His findings were based on a study of 158 couples that were continuously married from 1987 to 1992, had no children or an only child born between 1987 and 1992, and didn't move more than once in the five-year period.

By 1992, 42 percent of the women were mothers. That year, the employment rate among the women was 79 percent, as opposed to 87 percent in 1987. During the five-year period, 18 percent of the couples moved.

Allison Thompson