Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Research: Job-loss and geographic mobility

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m involved with a large Canadian research project examining employment-related geographical mobility. My own interests have been centered on temporary foreign workers in Alberta. Other research clusters have examined intra- and inter-provincial migration

One of the benefits of involvement has been exposure to other disciplines and their way of looking at the world. I’ve become fairly interested in geographical research which seeks to map phenomenon (and changes) spatially. This approach often reveals nuances that are hard to “see” when looking at data.

For example, we might look at the effect of an economic downturn on a population on where people live and find that most people continue to live in the same city in which they were most recently employed. A more nuanced analysis, though, might examine where in the city they live.

Not every part of a city is the same. An recent article in Canadian Public Policy entitled “Leaving Work, Leaving Home: Job Loss and Socio-Geographic Mobility in Canada” compared residential changes of employed and involuntarily unemployed Canadians from 1996 to 2010. Its findings included:
  • involuntary job loss is associated with both short-distance residential mobility and long-distance migration,
  • short-distance residential mobility is the more common response to job loss,
  • this mobility typically entails movement from a non-deprived neighbourhood to a neighbourhood with high material deprivation (this is particularly the case for workers who identify as visible minorities; the reasons for this pattern are not clear).

This pattern after job loss suggests numerous possible knock-on effects. Workers may experience different and potentially constrained labour-market opportunities. Children may see their educational progress interrupted and their educational options constrained. Families may face a higher risk of criminal victimization.

One implication of this analysis is that job loss may set the stage for the accumulation of various forms of disadvantage. It is unclear if existing income support programs (e.g., employment insurance) are adequate to attenuate this effect. None of these effects are immediately visible when one just looks at high-level statistics about employment-related geographical mobility.

-- Bob Barnetson

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