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Spatial Mobility, Family Dynamics, and Housing Transitions

Michael Wagner & Clara H. Mulder (2015)

In: KzfSS Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie


This paper summarizes theoretical approaches and empirical research on the links between partnership and family dynamics on the one hand and spatial mobility and housing transitions on the other. Spatial mobility includes residential relocations and commuting. We consider three types of partnerships—living apart together, unmarried and married co-residential unions—and the transitions between them. We also consider separations and the death of a partner. Moreover, we pay attention to childbirth and its consequences for relocation decisions and housing. We differentiate spatial mobility according to distance and direction; housing transitions are considered mainly with respect to changes in ownership status and housing quality (e.g. size of the accommodation). In line with the adjustment perspective on spatial mobility, this paper demonstrates that spatial mobility is a means for individuals and households to adjust their housing situation and their place of residence to requirements of a changing household size and composition as well as to demands of the labor market. At the same time, spatial mobility seems to be more than a mere adjustment process of individuals or households: it is also a determinant of life course changes.