, Volume 55, Issue 2, pp 485–510 | Cite as

Residential Mobility Across Early Childhood and Children’s Kindergarten Readiness

  • Stefanie Mollborn
  • Elizabeth Lawrence
  • Elisabeth Dowling Root


Understanding residential mobility in early childhood is important for contextualizing family, school, and neighborhood influences on child well-being. We examined the consequences of residential mobility for socioemotional and cognitive kindergarten readiness using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort, a nationally representative longitudinal survey that followed U.S. children born in 2001 from infancy to kindergarten. We described individual, household, and neighborhood characteristics associated with residential mobility for children aged 0–5. Our residential mobility indicators examined frequency of moves, nonlinearities in move frequency, quality of moves, comparisons between moving houses and moving neighborhoods, and heterogeneity in the consequences of residential mobility. Nearly three-quarters of children moved by kindergarten start. Mobility did not predict cognitive scores. More moves, particularly at relatively high frequencies, predicted lower kindergarten behavior scores. Moves from socioeconomically advantaged to disadvantaged neighborhoods were especially problematic, whereas moves within a ZIP code were not. The implications of moves were similar across socioeconomic status. The behavior findings largely support an instability perspective that highlights potential disruptions from frequent or problematic moves. Our study contributes to literature emphasizing the importance of contextualizing residential mobility. The high prevalence and distinct implications of early childhood moves support the need for further research.


Early childhood Residential mobility Inequality ECLS-B Kindergarten readiness 



This research is based on work supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (SES 1061058) and a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award from the National Institutes of Health (NICHD F32 HD 085599). Funds were also provided by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to the University of Colorado Population Center (P2C HD066613) and the Carolina Population Center (P2C HD050924). We thank Richard Jessor and Laurie James-Hawkins for their contributions to this study.

Supplementary material

13524_2018_652_MOESM1_ESM.docx (125 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 125 kb)


  1. Anderson, S., & Leventhal, T. (2016). Residential mobility and adolescent achievement and behavior: Understanding timing and extent of mobility. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 27, 328–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson, S., Leventhal, T., & Dupéré, V. (2014). Residential mobility and the family context: A developmental approach. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 35, 70–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bauman, L. J., Silver, E. J., & Stein, R. E. K. (2006). Cumulative social disadvantage and child health. Pediatrics, 117, 1321–1328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Borman, G. D., & Dowling, M. (2010). Schools and inequality: A multilevel analysis of Coleman’s Equality of Educational Opportunity data. Teachers College Record, 112, 1201–1246.Google Scholar
  5. Busacker, A., & Kasehagen, L. (2012). Association of residential mobility with child health: An analysis of the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 16, 78–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Casper, M. L., Barnett, E., Halverson, J. A., Elmes, G. A., Braham, V. E., Majeed, Z. A., . . . Stanley, S. (2000). Women and heart disease: An atlas of racial and ethnic disparities in mortality. Hyattsville, MD: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Google Scholar
  7. Cavanagh, S. E., & Huston, A. C. (2006). Family instability and children’s early problem behavior. Social Forces, 85, 551–581.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cavanagh, S. E., & Huston, A. C. (2008). The timing of family instability and children’s social development. Journal of Marriage and Family, 70, 1258–1270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chetty, R., Hendren, N., & Katz, L. F. (2016). The effects of exposure to better neighborhoods on children: New evidence from the Moving to Opportunity experiment. American Economic Review, 106, 855–902.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Coley, R. L., & Kull, M. (2016). Cumulative, timing-specific, and interactive models of residential mobility and children’s cognitive and psychosocial skills. Child Development, 87, 1204–1220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Coley, R. L., Leventhal, T., Lynch, A. D., & Kull, M. (2013). Relations between housing characteristics and the well-being of low-income children and adolescents. Developmental Psychology, 49, 1775–1789.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Coley, R. L., Lynch, A. D., & Kull, M. (2015). Early exposure to environmental chaos and children’s physical and mental health. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 32, 94–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cutts, D. B., Meyers, A. F., Black, M. M., Casey, P. H., Chilton, M., Cook, J. T., . . . Rose-Jacobs, R. (2011). US housing insecurity and the health of very young children. American Journal of Public Health , 101 , 1508–1514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. DiPrete, T. A., & Eirich, G. M. (2006). Cumulative advantage as a mechanism for inequality: A review of theoretical and empirical developments. Annual Review of Sociology, 32, 271–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dong, M., Anda, R. F., Felitti, V. J., Williamson, D. F., Dube, S. R., Brown, D. W., & Giles, W. H. (2005). Childhood residential mobility and multiple health risks during adolescence and adulthood: The hidden role of adverse childhood experiences. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 159, 1104–1110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Downey, L., Crowder, K., & Kemp, R. J. (2016). Family structure, residential mobility, and environmental inequality. Journal of Marriage and Family, 79, 535–555.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Elder, G. H., Jr. (1994). Time, human agency, and social change: Perspectives on the life course. Social Psychology Quarterly , 57, 4–15.Google Scholar
  18. Entwisle, D. R., Alexander, K. L., & Olson, L. S. (2004). The first-grade transition in life course perspective. In J. T. Mortimer & M. J. Shanahan (Eds.), Handbook of the life course (pp. 229–250). New York, NY: Springer.Google Scholar
  19. Felitti, V. J., Anda, R. F., Nordenberg, D., Williamson, D. F., Spitz, A. M., Edwards, V., . . . Marks, J. S. (1998). Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults: The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 14, 245–258.Google Scholar
  20. Flowerdew, R., Manley, D. J., & Sabel, C. E. (2008). Neighbourhood effects on health: Does it matter where you draw the boundaries? Social Science & Medicine, 66, 1241–1255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fomby, P., & Cherlin, A. J. (2007). Family instability and child well-being. American Sociological Review, 72, 181–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fomby, P., & Mollborn, S. (2017). Ecological instability and children’s classroom behavior in kindergarten. Demography, 54, 1627–1651.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fomby, P., Mollborn, S., & Sennott, C. (2010). Race/ethnic differences in effects of family instability on adolescents’ risk behavior. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72, 234–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fomby, P., & Sennott, C. A. (2013). Family structure instability and mobility: The consequences for adolescents’ problem behavior. Social Science Research, 42, 186–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Fowler, P. J., Henry, D. B., & Marcal, K. E. (2015). Family and housing instability: Longitudinal impact on adolescent emotional and behavioral well-being. Social Science Research, 53, 364–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gasper, J., DeLuca, S., & Estacion, A. (2010). Coming and going: Explaining the effects of residential and school mobility on adolescent delinquency. Social Science Research, 39, 459–476.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Geist, C., & McManus, P. A. (2008). Geographical mobility over the life course: Motivations and implications. Population, Space and Place, 14, 283–303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Goyette, K. A. (2008). Race, social background, and school choice options. Equity & Excellence in Education, 41, 114–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Haas, S. A. (2007). The long-term effects of poor childhood health: An assessment and application of retrospective reports. Demography, 44, 113–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hagan, J., MacMillan, R., & Wheaton, B. (1996). New kid in town: Social capital and the life course effects of family migration on children. American Sociological Review, 61, 368–385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Haynie, D. L., South, S. J., & Bose, S. (2006). The company you keep: Adolescent mobility and peer behavior. Sociological Inquiry, 76, 397–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hayward, M. D., & Gorman, B. K. (2004). The long arm of childhood: The influence of early-life social conditions on men’s mortality. Demography, 41, 87–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hill, R. (1949). Families under stress: Adjustment to the crises of war separation and reunion. New York, NY: Harper & Brothers.Google Scholar
  34. Holme, J. J. (2002). Buying homes, buying schools: School choice and the social construction of school quality. Harvard Educational Review, 72, 177–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Jelleyman, T., & Spencer, N. (2008). Residential mobility in childhood and health outcomes: A systematic review. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 62, 584–592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kamp Dush, C. M., Schmeer, K. K., & Taylor, M. (2013). Chaos as a social determinant of child health: Reciprocal associations? Social Science & Medicine, 95, 69–76.Google Scholar
  37. Krieger, N., Chen, J. T., Waterman, P. D., Soobader, M. J., Subramanian, S. V., & Carson, R. (2002). Geocoding and monitoring of US socioeconomic inequalities in mortality and cancer incidence: Does the choice of area-based measure and geographic level matter? The Public Health Disparities Geocoding Project. American Journal of Epidemiology, 156, 471–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lawrence, E., Root, E. D., & Mollborn, S. (2015). Residential mobility in early childhood: Household and neighborhood characteristics of movers and non-movers. Demographic Research, 33(article 32), 939–949. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Leventhal, T., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2000). The neighborhoods they live in: The effects of neighborhood residence on child and adolescent outcomes. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 309–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Leventhal, T., & Newman, S. (2010). Housing and child development. Children and Youth Services Review, 32, 1165–1174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. McCubbin, H. I., & Patterson, J. M. (1983). Family transitions: Adaptation to stress. In H. I. McCubbin & C. R. Fisley (Eds.), Stress and the family (Vol. 1, pp. 5–25). New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  42. McLoyd, V. C., Cauce, A. M., Takeuchi, D., & Wilson, L. (2000). Marital processes and parental socialization in families of color: A decade review of research. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62, 1070–1093.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Moffitt, T. E. (1993). Adolescence-limited and life-course-persistent antisocial behavior: A developmental taxonomy. Psychological Review, 100, 674–701.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Mollborn, S. (2016). Young children’s developmental ecologies and kindergarten readiness. Demography, 53, 1853–1882.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Mollborn, S., Fomby, P., & Dennis, J. A. (2012). Extended household transitions, race/ethnicity, and early childhood cognitive outcomes. Social Science Research, 41, 1152–1165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Morrissey, T. W. (2009). Multiple child-care arrangements and young children’s behavioral outcomes. Child Development, 80, 59–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Mulder, C. H., & Hooimeijer, P. (1999). Residential relocations in the life course. In L. J. G. van Wissen & P. A. Dykstra (Eds.), Population issues: An interdisciplinary focus (pp. 159–186). The Hague, the Netherlands: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Najarian, M., Snow, K., Lennon, J., Kinsey, S., & Mulligan, G. (2010). Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), preschool-kindergarten 2007 psychometric report (NCES Report No. 2010-009). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.Google Scholar
  49. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Early Child Care Research Network. (2002). Early child care and children’s development prior to school entry: Results from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care. American Educational Research Journal, 39, 133–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Parente, M. E., & Mahoney, J. L. (2009). Residential mobility and exposure to neighborhood crime: Risks for young children’s aggression. Journal of Community Psychology, 37, 559–578.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Pettit, B. (2004). Moving and children’s social connections: Neighborhood context and the consequences of moving for low-income families. Sociological Forum, 19, 285–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Pettit, B., & McLanahan, S. (2003). Residential mobility and children’s social capital: Evidence from an experiment. Social Science Quarterly, 84, 632–649.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Porter, L., & Vogel, M. (2014). Residential mobility and delinquency revisited: Causation or selection? Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 30, 187–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Pribesh, S., & Downey, D. B. (1999). Why are residential and school moves associated with poor school performance? Demography, 36, 521–534.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Rabe, B., & Taylor, M. (2010). Residential mobility, quality of neighbourhood and life course events. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series A: Statistics in Society, 173, 531–555.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Riina, E. M., Lippert, A., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2016). Residential instability, family support, and parent-child relationships among ethnically diverse urban families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 78, 855–870.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Rogers, A. (1967). A regression analysis of interregional migration in California. Review of Economics and Statistics, 49, 262–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Root, E. D., & Humphrey, J. L. (2014). The impact of childhood mobility on exposure to neighborhood socioeconomic context over time. American Journal of Public Health, 104, 80–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Roy, A. L., McCoy, D. C., & Raver, C. C. (2014). Instability versus quality: Residential mobility, neighborhood poverty, and children’s self-regulation. Developmental Psychology, 50, 1891–1896.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Rumbold, A. R., Giles, L. C., Whitrow, M. J., Steele, E. J., Davies, C. E., Davies, M. J., & Moore, V. M. (2012). The effects of house moves during early childhood on child mental health at age 9 years. BMC Public Health, 12, 583. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Schmitt, S. A., & Lipscomb, S. T. (2016). Longitudinal associations between residential mobility and early academic skills among low-income children. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 36, 190–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Shonkoff, J. P., & Garner, A. S. (2012). The lifelong effects of early childhood adversity and toxic stress. Pediatrics, 129, E232–E246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Snow, K., Derecho, A., Wheeless, S., Lennon, J., Rosen, J., Rogers, J., . . . Einaudi, P. (2009). Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), Kindergarten 2006 and 2007 data file user’s manual. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.Google Scholar
  64. South, S. J., Haynie, D. L., & Bose, S. (2005). Residential mobility and the onset of adolescent sexual activity. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 499–514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Townsend, P., Phillimore, P., & Beattie, A. (1988). Health and deprivation: Inequality and the North. London, UK: Routledge.Google Scholar
  66. Turney, K., Kissane, R., & Edin, K. (2013). After Moving to Opportunity: How moving to a low-poverty neighborhood improves mental health among African American women. Society and Mental Health, 3, 1–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. U.S. Census Bureau. (2002). Census 2000 Summary File 3 (SF3) [Data set]. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.Google Scholar
  68. Vandell, D. L., Belsky, J., Burchinal, M., Steinberg, L., & Vandergrift, N. (2010). Do effects of early child care extend to age 15 years? Results from the NICHD study of early child care and youth development. Child Development, 81, 737–756.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Vernon-Feagans, L., Willoughby, M., & Garrett-Peters, P. (2016). Predictors of behavioral regulation in kindergarten: Household chaos, parenting, and early executive functions. Developmental Psychology, 52, 430–441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Weller, L. D., Schnittjer, C. J., & Tuten, B. A. (1992). Predicting achievement in grades three through ten using the Metropolitan Readiness Test. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 6, 121–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Willson, A. E., Shuey, K. M., & Elder, G. H., Jr. (2007). Cumulative advantage processes as mechanisms of inequality in life course health. American Journal of Sociology, 112, 1886–1924.Google Scholar
  72. Ziol-Guest, K. M., & McKenna, C. C. (2014). Early childhood housing instability and school readiness. Child Development, 85, 103–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stefanie Mollborn
    • 1
  • Elizabeth Lawrence
    • 2
  • Elisabeth Dowling Root
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of Behavioral Science and Department of SociologyUniversity of Colorado BoulderBoulderUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of NevadaLas VegasUSA
  3. 3.Department of Geography and Division of EpidemiologyThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

Personalised recommendations