Internal migration is the most common form of address-changing migration in the world. Whilst international migration has been in the spotlight for several decades, country-internal migration has received less attention in the international scholarly arena. Internal Migration in the Developed World is an effort to bring internal migration into focus as well as an important contribution to the discussion of migration and mobility. The book presents novel comparative data of internal migration, poses bold questions and challenges some widely shared visions of constantly increasing migration and mobility. Indeed, the book’s subtitle Are we Becoming Less Mobile? sets the tone for many of the empirical findings in the book.
Internal Migration in the Developed World is an anthology edited by three eminent geographers. Professor Emeritus Tony Champion, Professor Emeritus Thomas Cooke and Senior Lecturer Ian Shuttleworth have an impressive publication record in population studies, urbanization and migration. Altogether 20 scholars have contributed to the volume. The book is divided into three sections. The first section discusses trends in internal migration, basic theoretical approaches, and methodological issues and provides a global snapshot of internal migration. The second part presents national case studies of internal migration in Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States (US). The final section provides a summary of findings as well as theoretical and methodological considerations. While the timeframes in the chapters somewhat differ, the book’s main focus is from the 1970s to the 2010s.
The first section comprises one third of the book and can be read as an entity of its own. The editors’ introduction starts with questioning whether migration and mobility are indeed growing in multiple forms as has often been suggested. In addition, the editors aim to evaluate various explanations of decreasing migration, as well relate their results to broader discussions of international migration and the new mobilities paradigm (pp. 22–23).
The scene-setting introduction is followed by Anne Green’s overview of migration drivers, divided into five main groups: (1) changing demography, (2) macro-economic and labour market factors, (3) technological developments, (4) societal and non-economic considerations and (5) other market, regulatory and institutional structures (p. 31). Green discusses the subject matter through the lenses of dividing internal migration into short-distance and long-distance migration as well as circulation (p. 32). Green’s chapter is a concise package of migration theory that will be of use to many researchers.
The following two chapters discuss data quality, methodology and trends in global internal migration patterns. The texts should be obligatory reading for anyone dealing with migration/mobility and numbers. The data chapter by John Stillwell, Martin Bell and Ian Shuttleworth shows how hard it is to translate public statistics into international comparative, scientific data. Embedded with differing definitions of ‘migration’, intervals of measurement, data coverage and quality, as well as differences in spatial units, comparative research is no small task.
The final introductory chapter by Martin Bell, Elin Charles-Edwards, Aude Bernard and Philipp Ueffing provides a global overview of internal migration from 1980 to 2010. The chapter is based on the IMAGE project (www.imageproject.com.au) that has migration data collections from 193 UN countries. Based on the data, we can see anything from around 1% (Macedonia) to 19% (Iceland) of an entire population in any country of the world changing their address every year. This includes all address-changing moves, of which short-distance moves are more common. The Nordic countries are among the world’s most migration-prone populations. Overall, highest migration intensities can be found in Oceania and North America, while elsewhere there is more variety (pp. 80–81).
The second section presents national case studies, beginning with the US, which has experienced a decline in internal migration since the 1970s. The US as the first case study is a conscious choice, because the underlining idea of the book is to see whether similar trends can be identified across the world. Thomas Cooke’s chapter focusses on cohort effects and finds that the postwar baby boom generation crowded out many economic, and hence migration, opportunities of their children. Cooke also points out that the increasing availability of information and communication technology reduces internal migration, at least when associated with high living costs in the desired place to live.
The following chapters look at six other countries and encompass about half the book. The various migration situations can be summed up as follows. In the UK (in this case, England and Wales), short-distance migration has declined. In Australia, internal migration has declined since the 1990s. Japan has also seen an internal migration decline since the late 1970s. As for the Nordic countries, Sweden’s internal migration rate has remained rather stable. The chapter on Germany notes the great mobility resulting from German reunification in 1990 but otherwise gives a fairly stable picture of German internal migration. Italy, like Japan, is a low-mobility country, a ‘rooted’ society (p. 242), which has experienced a small rise in internal migration.
On this elementary level of internal migration rates, we see a diversity of trends and no clear-cut reduction in internal migration across the developed world; however, the authors also point to several commonalities that are discussed in the concluding section. All the individual chapters are good reading regarding their substance, but the thorough discussions of data and methodology take, in my opinion, too much space in the chapters. Discussion of data quality is of course important, but it is also alienating for others than the very specialist. If the main goal of the book is to give an overview of current developments in internal migration and its national variations, then lengthier discussions of data quality and comparability would have been more suitable in an appendix.
The third section consists of three chapters. The first by William H. Frey discusses the future of internal migration trends. While migration decline is evident in some countries, it is not a universal phenomenon. He sees population aging as a key feature of migration trends, as the number of young people, who are most prone to higher migration levels, is shrinking. Another key feature is the ‘flattening’ of the age/migration relationship as transitions to independent living and moving to work life have become delayed compared to earlier. Frey sums up his thinking as follows: ‘Lifestyle changes, occupational shifts, more flexible employment opportunities and the sustainability and the substitutability of commuting and telecommuting for changes of residence may make the age/migration patterns of future more difficult to predict’ (p. 267). Frey also discusses international migration and considers that international migration may become a central driver of internal migration in developed countries, in case high levels of immigration to them will continue.
The second concluding chapter by Keith Halfacree focusses on the relationship between internal migration and mobility at large. He connects the ‘mobility turn’ with political economy as follows: ‘a condition of mobility can be strongly allied to the evolution of capitalism into its present-day, dominant, more “flexible” or “neo-liberal” forms’ (p. 273). Departing from mobility scholars’ broad understanding of human movement, he also presents a useful table identifying internal migration on a continuum from everyday movement to international migration to virtual mobility (p. 274) that could help others to position their particular research interest. Within this frame, Halfacree takes up changes in housing markets, work and family life, as well as challenges related to dual-earner families’ mobility choices that have influenced internal migration in the past decades.
The editors’ final chapter recaps the book. It notes that while internal migration decline can be found in many developed countries, it is not a universal trend, but rather enmeshed in many national particularities. The argument could also be restated: the Age of Migration (Castles, Miller & de Haas 2014) and Mobilities (Urry 2007) is not one of simply growing migration and mobility everywhere. As such, the book makes an important correction regarding internal migration in today’s world. These are strong cases and make this anthology an important one.
Internal Migration in the Developed World is highly useful as an introduction to the state of the art and trends of internal migration in developed societies. It presents a concise picture of the field of study itself and the methodological and theoretical discussions related to it. While the book does not fully live up to its subtitle—Are we Becoming Less Mobile?—it makes significant observations regarding the complexity and too often taken for granted expectation of constantly growing mobility and migration. Moreover, it points to both national variations in migration rates as well as hints at neoliberal political economy’s contradictory influence on human migration and mobility. In toto, this is a great book for all migration researchers and students, and I hope it will find its readers.
The author has no competing interests to declare.