Are Young Swedes Moving More? A Cohort Analysis of Internal Migration by Move Order


While levels of migration within countries have been trending down in a number of advanced economies, Sweden has recorded a rise in internal migration among young adults. An increase in aggregate migration levels can be the result of a decline in immobility (i.e. the absence of migration), an increase in repeat movement or a combination of both. In this paper, we draw on retrospective survey and longitudinal register data to explore the demographic mechanisms underpinning the rise in internal migration among young Swedes born in the 30 years to 1980 and we compare the migration behaviour of the youngest cohort to that of their European counterparts. Of all 25 European countries, Sweden reports the highest level of migration among young adults, which is the result of very low immobility combined with high repeat movement. The increase in migration has been particularly pronounced for inter-county moves for the post-1970 cohorts. Analysis of order-specific components of migration shows that this is the result of a decrease in immobility combined with a modest rise in higher-order moves, whereas it is the rise in higher-order moves that underpins the increase in inter-parish migration. This upswing has been accompanied by a shift in the ages at migration, characterised by an earlier start and later finish leading to a lengthening of the number of years young adults are mobile. The results indicate that change in migration behaviour is order-specific, which underlines the need to collect and analyse migration by move order to obtain a reliable account of migration trends.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1

Source: 2005 Eurobarometer, cohorts born between 1971 and 1980, authors’ calculations

Fig. 2

Source: 2005 Eurobarometer, cohorts born between 1971 and 1980, authors’ calculations

Fig. 3

Source: Swedish Population Register, authors’ calculations

Fig. 4

Source: Swedish Population Register, authors’ calculations

Fig. 5

Source: Swedish Population Register, authors’ calculations

Fig. 6

Source: Swedish Population Register, authors’ calculations


  1. 1.

    The Eurobarometer did not collect the age at which moves took place, except the age at leaving the parental home. For this reason, we could not restrict the analysis to the ages of 18–30 as we did with Swedish register data and had to analyse migration behaviour over a wider age range (e.g. 15–35).

  2. 2.

    See Kolk (2019) for sex-specific overall migration patterns.

  3. 3.

    Immobility is defined as the absence of migration in given interval and thus does not refer the inability of a person to move around in daily activity without help or aids.


  1. Amcoff, J., & Niedomysl, T. (2013). Back to the city: Internal return migration to metropolitan regions in Sweden. Planning and Environment A,45(10), 2477–2494.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Andersson, R., Quigley, J. M., & Wilhelmson, M. (2004). University decentralization as regional policy: The Swedish experiment. Journal of Economic Geography,4(4), 371–388.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Bell, M., et al. (2015a). Internal migration and development: Comparing migration intensities around the world. Population and Development Review,41(1), 33–58.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Bell, M., et al. (2015b). Internal migration data around the world: Assessing contemporary practice. Population, Space and Place,21(1), 1–17.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Bell, M., Charles-Edwards, E., Bernard, A., & Ueffing, P (2018). Global trends in internal migration. In T. Champion, T. Cooke, & I. Shuttleworth (Eds.), Internal migration in the developed world: are we becoming less mobile? (pp. 76–97). London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Bernard, A. (2017a). Cohort measures of internal migration: Understanding long-term trends. Demography,54(6), 2201–2221.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Bernard, A. (2017b). Levels and patterns of internal migration in Europe: A cohort perspective. Population Studies,71(3), 293–311.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Bernard, A., Bell, M., & Zhu, Y. (2019). Migration in China: A Cohort approach to understanding past and future trends. Population Space and Place,2019, e2234.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Bernard, A., et al. (2017). Residential mobility in Australia and the United States: A retrospective study. Australian Population Studies,1(1), 41–54.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Champion, T., Cooke, T., & Shuttleworth, I. (2018). Internal migration in the developed world: Are we becoming less mobile?. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Champion, A. G., & Shuttleworth, I. (2017). Is longer-distance migration slowing? An analysis of the annual record for England and Wales since the 1970s. Population, Space and Place,23(3), e2024.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Chudnovskaya, M., & Kolk, M. (2017). Educational expansion and intergenerational proximity in Sweden. Population, Space, and Place,23(1), e1973.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Courgeau, D. (1973). Migrations et découpages du territoire. Population (french edition), 511–537.

  14. Esipova, N., Pugliese, A., & Ray, J. (2013). The demographics of global internal migration. Migration Policy Practice,3(2), 3–5.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Fischer, P. A., & Malmberg, G. (2001). Settled people don’t move: On life course and (im-) mobility in Sweden. International Journal of Population Geography,7(5), 357–371.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Hogskoleverket. (2013). Higher education in Sweden, Status Report (Swedish Higher Education Authority).

  17. Kolk, M. (2019). Period and cohort measures of internal migration. Population, 74(3), 333–350.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Kulu, H., Lundholm, E., & Malmberg, G. (2018). Is spatial mobility on the rise or in decline? An order-specific analysis of the migration of young adults in Sweden. Population Studies,72(3), 1–15.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Lomax, N., & Stillwell, J. (2018). Temporal change in internal migration in the United Kingdom. In T. Champion, T. J. Cooke, & I. Shuttleworth (Eds.), Internal migration in the developed world: Are we becoming less mobile?. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Long, L. (1973). New estimates of migration expectancy in the United States. Journal of the American Statistical Association,68(341), 37–43.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Lundholm, E. (2007). Are movers still the same? Characteristics of interregional migrants in Sweden 1970–2001. Tijdschrift voor economische en sociale geografie,98(3), 336–348.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Openshaw, S. (1984). The modifiable areal unit problem. In Study Group in Quantitative Methods (Ed.), Concepts and techniques in modern geography. Norwich: Geobooks.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Pelikh, A., & Kulu, H. (2018). Short-and long-distance moves of young adults during the transition to adulthood in Britain. Population, Space and Place, 24(5), e2125.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Poulain, M., & Herm, A. (2013). Central population registers as a source of demographic statistics in Europe. Population,68(2), 183–212.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Rees, P., & Kupiszewski, M. (1999). Internal migration and regional population dynamics in Europe: A synthesis (Populatio Studies, 32: Council of Europe Publishing), Strasbourg.

  26. Sánchez, A. C., & Andrews, D. (2011). To move or not to move: What drives residential mobility Rates in the OECD? OECD Economics Department Working paper 846, Paris.

  27. Shuttleworth, I., Osth, J., & Niedomysl, T. (2018). Internal migration in a high-migration Nordic country. In T. Champion, T. Cooke, & I. Shuttleworth (Eds.), Internal migration in the developed world: Are we becoming less mobilie?. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Smith, J. P., & Thomas, D. (2003). Remembrances of things past: Test–retest reliability of retrospective migration histories. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (Statistics in Society),166(1), 23–49.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Wyness, G. (2010). Policy changes in UK higher education funding, 19632009, Working Paper (pp. 10–15). London: Department of Quantitative Social Science, Institute of Education.

Download references


The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the Australian Research Council under ARC Early Career Discovery Project (DE160101574) and Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (P17-0330:1).

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Aude Bernard.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 38 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Bernard, A., Kolk, M. Are Young Swedes Moving More? A Cohort Analysis of Internal Migration by Move Order. Eur J Population 36, 601–615 (2020).

Download citation


  • Internal migration
  • Sweden
  • Cohort analysis
  • Completed migration rate
  • Completed migration distribution
  • Young adults