Young New Zealand families are moving house more than ever

New Zealand families with children under two move house much more than previously thought and more often than families in other countries. 

New Zealand families with children under two move house much more than previously thought and more often than families in other countries. These are two of the key findings published today in a new report from the Growing Up in New Zealand longitudinal study.

Moving House in the first 1000 days of life’ describes how often and how far New Zealand children are moving at the start of their lives. It also identifies some of the features of the families who are moving, and the types of houses that they are living in.

The report uses information collected from the Growing Up in New Zealand study of almost 7,000 New Zealand children that reflect the stories and reality of life for all children born in New Zealand today.

“Residential mobility, or families moving house, is an important area to understand about contemporary life in New Zealand,” explains Growing Up in New Zealand Associate Director Dr Polly Atatoa Carr. “How often families move and where they are moving to can impact on key decisions that we make within our communities, such as how to keep kids in school and how to make sure our houses are safe, healthy and affordable.”

This latest report from Growing Up in New Zealand found that between birth and two years of age, just under half of the children had moved at least once, and over a third had moved twice or more. A small number of children had moved house up to eight times before they turned two.

“Whether families move by choice or by necessity, we are interested in finding out about how mobility affects families’ support networks and access to services like education and healthcare. With moving house being so common for young New Zealand families, it will be essential to know about the extent and nature of residential mobility to ensure all New Zealand pre-schoolers get the support and services they need."

The key feature found to be most associated with moving house for young families in New Zealand was housing tenure. Families living in private rental accommodation were the most likely to move; in the majority of cases, the move took them into another private rental home.

“We know that there is currently a lot of attention on the housing situation in New Zealand, particularly for young families. Improving the security and affordability of the rental market may be an opportunity to protect families from undesired moves,” suggests Dr Atatoa Carr.

The ability of Growing Up in New Zealand to follow the same children over time is also demonstrated in this report. Using this longitudinal data it was found that those children who had parents whose partnership ended, or whose household income changed were more likely to have moved.

“As the children in this pivotal study grow up, and as our families continue to contribute their valuable information, we will be able to further describe how and why moving house affects behavioural, educational and health outcomes – positive and negative,” says Dr Atatoa Carr. “This will enable a better appreciation of the ability our current policies and programmes have to support families effectively, and to ensure all our children reach their full potential.”

The results in brief

  • Moving house is a frequent event in the lives of New Zealand families. The level of residential mobility described in the Growing Up in New Zealand cohort is greater than that demonstrated in other comparable cohorts such as that of the Millennium Cohort in the UK.
  • Between birth and two years of age, 45.3% of children had moved at least once, and 38% had moved twice or more.
  • The average number of moves between pregnancy and two years of age was 1.4, and the maximum number was 8 (the situation for less than 10 children).
  • Of those children who remained in New Zealand and moved house once only between pregnancy and nine months of age, the average distance moved was 28 km (standard deviation of 95 km), and the median distance moved was 4.7 km.
  • Just over half of children moved less than 5 km from their previous home.

The predictors of mobility (socio-demographic, family, household and neighbourhood) were examined within two specific time points: birth to nine months of age, and nine months to two years of age. There were similar predictors of household mobility found at these two time points.

  • The key determinant of residential mobility was housing tenure. Families living in private rental accommodation are the most likely to move followed by those living in public rentals and those in their own homes. Approximately two thirds of families moving from a private rental house were moving to another private rental house.
  • Between birth and nine months, residential mobility was also found to be higher: for children who are a first child in their family; for children living in a household with adults other than their parents(s) (extended family or non-kin); when a parental partnership broke up over this time period, or when the household income reduced during the early months of a child’s life.
  • Maternal ethnicity was also a predictor of residential mobility between birth and nine months, with children of European mothers more likely to have moved than those of any other ethnicity.
  • Between nine months to two years mobility was associated with: being born to a younger mother; Māori and European maternal ethnicity; higher household income relative to the median; change in partnership status; and an increase in household income during this time.
  • The longitudinal information in Growing Up in New Zealand was critical to determining what effect changes in family life (such as relationship status and income) has on residential mobility.
  • The ongoing nature of this study will also provide the ability to track mobility beyond the two-year point, assess further the likely causal relationships between early life factors and mobility, and determine the impact on child development.

Download the report

Report 5, Growing Up in New Zealand: Residential Mobility Report1 - Moving house in the first 1000 days of life (December 2014) (PDF)

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