Conventional theories of migration decision–making posit that there exists a simple, sequential link between residential satisfaction, mobility intentions and actual moving behavior. Past empirical work, however, has indicated substantial discrepancies between mobility intentions and behavior. This study investigates behavioral inconsistencies in migration using data drawn from the 1985, 1987 and 1989 rounds of the American Housing Survey (AHS). Mobility is inferred by comparing occupants of the same housing units in two consecutive surveys. The results show that a substantial number of people do not realize their intention to move and many move unexpectedly; with or without prior intentions to move, movers and stayers appear to differ significantly in terms of their sociodemographic characteristics. The extent to which individuals act consistently with their intentions also differs along with their attributes (e.g., tenure, age, education and gender). The paper discusses possible reasons for behavioral inconsistencies in migration based on recent developments in social psychological theories of human behavior.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Ajzen, I. (1985). From intentions to action: A theory of planned behavior. In J. Kuhl & J. Beckmann (Eds.). Action control (pp. 11-39). Berlin: Springer-Verlag.
Ajzen, I. (1988). Attitudes, personality, and behavior. Chicago: Dorsey Press.
Ajzen, I. (1991). The intentions to actions: a theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50, 179-211.
Ajzen, I., & Fishbein, M. (1980). Understanding attitudes and predicting social behavior. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Bach, R. L., & Smith, J. (1977). Community satisfaction, expectations of moving, and migration. Demography, 14, 147-167.
Bentler, P. M. & Speckart, G. (1981). Attitudes ‘cause’ behaviours: A structural equations analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 40, 226-238.
Brown, L. A., & Moore, E. G. (1970). The intra-urban migration process: a perspective. Geografiska Annaler, Series B, 53, 1-13.
Clark, W. A. V. (1982). Recent research on migration and mobility: a review and interpretation. In D. R. Diamond and J. B. McIoughlin (Eds.). Progress in Planning (pp. 1-56). Oxford, Great Britain: Pergamon.
Clark, W. A. V., Huff, J. O., & Burt, J. E. (1979). Calibrating a model of the decision to move. Environment and Planning A, 11, 689-704.
Clark, W. A. V., & Onaka, J. L. (1983). Life cycle and housing adjustment as explanations of residential mobility. Urban Studies, 20, 47-57.
Clark, W. A. V., & Onaka, J. L. (1985). An empirical test of a joint model of residential mobility and housing choice. Environment and Planning A, 17, 915-930.
Crull, S. R., Eichner, M. M., & Morris, E. W. (1991). Two tests of the housing adjustment model of residential mobility. Housing and Society, 18, 53-64.
DaVanzo, J. S. (1982). Repeat migration in the U.S.: who moves back and who moves on. Review of Economics and Statistics, 65, 552-559.
DaVanzo, J. S., & Morrison, P. A. (1981). Return and other sequences of migration in the united states. Demography, 18, 85-101.
Deane, G. D., (1990). Mobility and adjustments: paths to the resolution of residential stress. Demography, 27, 65-79.
De Jong, G. F., (1994). Choice process in migration intentions and behavior (Working Paper No. 95-04). The Pennsylvania State University: Population Research Institute.
De Jong, G. F., & Fawcett, J. T. (1981). Motivations for migration: an assessment and a value-expectancy research model. In G. F. De Jong & R.W. Gardner (Eds.). Migration Decision-Making: Multidiciplinary Approaches to Microlevel Studies in Developed and Developing Countries (pp. 13-58). New York: Pergamon Press.
De Jong, G. F., Wilmoth, J. M., Angel, J. L., & Cornwell, G. T. (1992). Geographic mobility of the very old: motives and explanations (Working Paper No. 1992-10). The Pennsylvania State University: Population Research Institute.
Fawcett, J. T. (1985–86). Migration psychology: new behavioral models. Population and Environment, 8, 5-14.
Fishbein, M., & Ajzen, I. (1975). Belief, attitude, intention and behavior: an introduction to theory and research. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
Fredericks, A. J. & Dossett, D. L. (1983). Attitude-behaviour relations: a comparison of the Fishbein-Ajzen and the Bentler-Speckart models. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45, 501-512.
Fuller, T. D., Lightfoot, P., & Kamnuansilpa, P. (1985–86). Mobility plans and mobility behavior: convergence and divergences in Thailand. Population and Environment, 8, 15-40.
Greene, W. H. (1990). Econometric analysis. Macmillan.
Huff, J. O., & Clark, W. A. V. (1978). Cumulative stress and cumulative inertia: a behavioral model of the decision to move. Environment and Planning A, 10, 1101-19.
Kashima, Y., Gallois, C., & McCamish, M. (1993). The theory of reasoned action and cooperative behavior: It takes two to use a condom. British Journal of Social Psychology, 32, 227-239.
King, G. W. (1975). An analysis of attitudinal and normative variables as predictors of intentions and behavior. Speech Monographs, 42, 237-244.
Landale, N. S., & Guest, A. M. (1985). Constraints, satisfaction and residential mobility: Speare's model reconsidered. Demography, 22(2), 199-222.
Lee, B. A. (1978). Residential mobility on skid row: disaffiliation, powerlessness, and decision-making. Demography, 15, 285-300.
Lee, B. A., Oropesa, R. S., & Kanan, J. W. (1994). Neighborhood context and residential mobility. Demography, 31, 249-270.
Lu, M. (forthcoming). Analyzing migration decision making: relationships between residential satisfaction, mobility intentions and moving behavior. Environment and Planning A.
Massey, D. S. (1990). Social structure, household strategies, and the cumulative causation of migration. Population Index, 56(1), 3-26.
McHugh, K. E. (1984). Explaining migration intentions and destination selection. Professional Geographer, 36, 315-325.
McHugh, K. E., Gober, P., & Reid, N. (1990). Determinants of short-and long-term mobility expectations for home owners and renters. Demography, 27, 81-95.
Michelson, W. (1977). Environmental choice, human behavior and residential satisfaction. New York: Oxford University Press.
Moore, E. G. (1986). Mobility intention and subsequent relocation. Urban Geography, 7, 497-514.
Morris, E. W., & Winter, M. (1975). A theory of family housing adjustment. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 37, 79-88.
Morris, E. W., & Winter, M. (1978). Housing, family, and society. New York: Wiley.
Newman, S. J., & Duncan, G. J. (1979). Residential problems, dissatisfaction, and mobility. Journal of American Planning Association, 45, 154-166.
Rossi, P. H. (1955). Why families move: a study of the social psychology of urban residential mobility. New York: The Free Press.
Rossi, P.H. (1980). Introduction to the Second Edition. Why families move (second edition, pp. 15-50). Beverly Hills: Sage.
Sell, R. R., & De Jong, G. F. (1983). Deciding whether to move: mobility, wishful thinking and adjustment. Sociology and Social Research, 67(2), 146-165.
Simmons, A. B. (1985–86). Recent studies on place-utility and intention to migrate: an international comparison. Population and Environment, 8(1–2), 120-140.
Speare, A. Jr. (1974). Residential satisfaction as an intervening variable in residential mobility. Demography, 11, 173-188.
Speare, A. Jr., Goldstein, S., & Frey, W. H. (Eds.). (1975). Residential mobility, migration, and metropolitan change. Cambridge: Ballinger Publishing Company.
Speare, A. Jr., Kobrin, F., & Kingkade, W. (1982). The influence of socioeconomic bonds and satisfaction on interstate migration. Social Forces, 61(2), 551-574.
U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Census, (1991). American Housing Survey [CD-ROM].
Wolpert, J. (1965). Behavioral aspects of the decision to migrate. Papers of the Regional Science Association, 15, 159-169.
Wolpert, J. (1966). Migration as an adjustment to environmental stress. Journal of Social Issues, 22, 91-102.
About this article
Cite this article
Lu, M. Do People Move When They Say They Will? Inconsistencies in Individual Migration Behavior. Population and Environment 20, 467–488 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1023365119874
- Human Behavior
- Empirical Work
- Substantial Discrepancy
- Sociodemographic Characteristic
- Housing Unit