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Moving to a different region is often associated with changes in the labour market. For example, in the early 1980s Britain experienced a deep economic recession with high levels of unemployment. At the time the number of young people entering the labour market was particularly high as those born in the post war baby boom, which peaked in 1966, reached school-leaving age. The country moved out of depression from 1984 but rapid de-industrialisation followed and unemployment remained high throughout the 1980s until it was alleviated by the growth in service sector employment. Related to this there was an increase in the proportions of workers leaving the labour force to take early retirement.

During this period two different trends in inter-regional migration could be discerned: from the 1970s there was a sustained population movement from urban to suburban or rural areas (known as 'counterurbanisation'), but the 1980s also witnessed a resumption of population drift towards London and the South East of England. Some analysts attributed this to the economic factors described above: unemployment was less severe in the South East and the new opportunities offered by service industries were disproportionately located there (see e.g. Champion & Townsend, 1990). As levels of employment rose, the economic and demographic differences between regions became more marked and it has become even more difficult to generalise about population movement in the country as a whole.

There is a need for analysis at regional or sub-regional level, and preferably for longitudinal data to show where population flows were significant. For example, if the centres of electronics and IT industry in East Anglia have attracted in-migration, was this mainly from the Midlands or have people also moved there from London? The ONS Longitudinal Study (LS) offers researchers the opportunity to study changes in place of residence within England and Wales between 1991 and 2001. (It would also be possible to compare place of residence at any Census from 1971 to 2001 with any other, as well as with place of residence at the time of specific events such as motherhood or death.) Being a 1% sample of the population, LS numbers are sufficient to analyse movement between geographical units, and various classifications (such as administrative or NHS areas) are available. For more details see the Geography Training Module.

In this set of tables we present results by region for 330,365 people aged 15 or over in 1991, by age in 1991, and we also divide those aged 25-49 in 1991 by household employment status in 1991 and individual socio-economic status in 2001. The aim is to study inter-regional population migration and to make comparisons by socio-economic status. The term 'migration' is used specifically to denote migration between regions; of course this excludes some people who may have moved long distances but not crossed a regional boundary.