Publication - Research and analysis

Factors Influencing Rural Migration Decisions in Scotland: An Analysis of the Evidence

Published: 10 Sep 2010
Part of:
Research
ISBN:
9780755996162

This study coordinates evidence of the factors influencing rural migration decisions in Scotland, and ascertains the implications for policy. It focuses on age/life-stage related factors.

85 page PDF

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85 page PDF

711.2 kB

Contents
Factors Influencing Rural Migration Decisions in Scotland: An Analysis of the Evidence
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

85 page PDF

711.2 kB

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Introduction

There is a large volume of research on rural migration in Scotland, but there has been no recent attempt to draw together the evidence, assess its reliability, and ascertain its implications for policy development and delivery. The following study was undertaken to address this perceived gap. This study focuses on the age and life-stage related factors, which the literature suggests could influence individuals' rural migration decisions.

This study was carried out in 2010 to support the development of 'Speak Up for Rural Scotland', the Scottish Government's consultation document on how rural areas can best contribute to Scotland's sustainable economic growth.

More information on the context of this study can be found in Chapter 1.

Demographic Background

Statistics from the General Register Office for Scotland ( GROS) show that, in recent years, more people have been moving into rural Scotland than have been moving out. In addition, rural Scotland has experienced higher levels of migration-related growth than the rest of Scotland. Figures also reveal a disparity between net migration (the difference between the numbers of people moving into and out of an area over a period of time) for accessible and remote rural areas 1, with remote rural areas experiencing less migration-related growth. There is also an imbalance in the net migration figures for different age groups in all rural areas, with the deficit of 16-24 year olds (caused by many more leaving rural areas than are moving to them) being particularly notable.

Other age-related trends include:

  • A general increase in the net migration of 0-15 year olds, particularly for accessible rural areas;
  • Higher net migration for people aged 35 and over in rural areas, compared to the rest of Scotland; and
  • Higher net migration for people of pensionable age in rural areas, compared to the rest of Scotland.

More information on the demographic context of this study can be found in Chapter 1.

Methodology

Aims and Objectives

The aim of this study was to coordinate an evidence base of the factors influencing rural migration decisions in Scotland, and ascertain the implications of the findings for policy development and delivery. This study focused on literature concerning Scotland specifically, as this was of highest relevance to Scottish policy making, and was believed to be most useful for identifying rural migration issues that are unique to Scotland (eg: the Scottish Islands). This approach was also important given the study's short timescale.

The review's specific objectives were to:

  • Identify the 'push' factors that encourage people in different age and life-stage groups to leave rural areas, as well as the 'pull' factors that attract others into them.
  • Identify the 'return' factors that encourage people in different age and life-stage groups to move back into rural areas, as well as the 'stay' factors that prevent others from leaving.
  • Highlight the implications for rural migration policy in Scotland, including any examples of best practice.
  • Highlight any gaps in the evidence base on rural migration in Scotland, which would benefit from future research.

Method

A literature review was chosen to achieve these aims and objectives, using a variety of search engines and search terms that were agreed by an advisory group at the project's inception. Parameters were set to make the project manageable and to ensure that the messages from research were still relevant. As a result, data was gathered from journal articles published since 1999 only, and was filtered using a series of inclusion and exclusion criteria to enhance its reliability.

Reliability

The evidence base used to inform this review was largely made up of small-scale, qualitative research studies, which reflect the experiences of residents living in specific areas, rather than offering a statistically representative picture for rural Scotland as a whole. The factors listed are therefore extremely subjective, and sometimes a 'push' factors listed as encouraging people to leave a particular rural area may become a 'pull' factor in different situations (eg: when a different age group or geographical location is involved). As a result, this review focuses on the factors underlying individuals' rural migration decisions, rather than trying to pick out Scotland-wide trends.

More information on the study's methodology and reliability can be found in Chapter 2.

Factors Influencing Rural Migration Decisions

The 'push', 'pull', 'stay' and 'return' factors influencing rural migration decisions for different age groups are as follows:

For young people, the factors that encourage some to leave rural areas are often the same ones that encourage others to move into or return to them. These are the availability of high quality jobs; affordable housing; and encouragement from friends and family. Factors encouraging young people to stay in rural areas include the availability of higher education and employment opportunities; social/family pressure to stay; and a lack of resources to move. Whether young people feel a sense of attachment to the local area, and whether they feel included in/valued by the local community, is also an important factor affecting decision making.

The factors encouraging families to leave rural areas are: a lack of affordable housing; the perception that rural areas do not offer a desirable economic and/or social lifestyle (eg: in terms of social networks and/or earning power); and a lack of accessible shops, schools and services. The factors encouraging them to move into rural areas are the desire for a lifestyle change; local family connections; and the perception that rural areas provide a good environment for bringing up children. These are also key factors encouraging families to return to rural areas, as is the perceived strong sense of community available in some areas. Factors encouraging families to stay in rural areas are parents' desire to safeguard their children's education; and a general unwillingness to uproot family life.

The factors encouraging people who are economically active to leave rural areas are: a lack of high quality jobs; a gap between pay and the local cost of living; a lack of appropriate leisure facilities and opportunities to socialise with peers; and social pressure to leave. The factors encouraging them to move into rural areas are the availability of high quality jobs compatible with their experience and/or qualifications; an appreciation of the local environment and ease of access to this; the availability of low cost housing; social and/or family connections; and the perceived strength and safety of some rural communities. The factors encouraging them to return to rural areas are social ties; family obligations; high quality employment opportunities (including opportunities to work remotely); and the desire for a lifestyle change. No 'stay' factors have been identified for this group, although those that apply to other groups may be relevant.

For older people, the factors encouraging them to leave rural areas are: a lack of suitable accommodation; limited support to stay in one's own home; a lack of local care services; poor availability and accessibility of local shops and services; and feelings of social and geographical isolation. The factors encouraging older people to move into rural areas are: an appreciation of the local environment; ease of access to this; the availability of appropriate, affordable housing; and the perceived strong sense of community available in some rural areas. No 'stay' or 'return' factors have been identified for this group, although those that apply to other groups may be relevant.

More information on the factors influencing the rural migration decisions of individuals in different age and life-stage groups can be found in Chapters 3-6.

Policy Implications From the Evidence

A number of general implications were identified in the literature. These include the need for:

  • joined-up strategy making to fully address rural issues;
  • policies that attract return migrants specifically, rather than those that discourage rural residents from leaving their local area in the first place;
  • policies that address area/region-specific issues, rather than attempting a one size fits all approach to rural policy making;
  • policies targeted at specific age groups; and
  • policies that help maximise the benefits of rural migration whilst minimising the risks associated with it.

More specific implications relate to providing: high quality rural employment and training; appropriate and affordable housing options; appropriate and accessible services and leisure facilities; high quality schooling and support for those wanting to pursue higher education; and appropriate transport options. They also include addressing negative perceptions of rural areas; striking a good balance between environmental protection and economic development; and empowering rural communities.

An analysis of the literature suggests that the main policy implications should relate to:

  • the provision of high quality jobs in rural areas;
  • the provision of affordable housing options in rural areas;
  • the provision of advice and support for people who have moved into rural areas;
  • the provision of advice and support for people who are thinking of moving or returning to rural areas;
  • involving both long-term residents and in-migrants from all age and life-stage groups in local decision making;
  • developing initiatives to encourage return migration; and
  • ensuring that policy makers take into account the different needs of accessible and remote rural areas.

In addition, the literature suggests a need to consistently evaluate relevant policies and share best practise, in order to help identify what policies work in different situations and why.

Importantly, the literature demonstrates the need for policy makers at all levels, and in a number of different policy areas, to take rural demographic considerations into account. Decisions by individuals to settle in or to leave rural Scotland are often heavily influenced by the availability of housing, transport, education and job opportunities.

More information on the literature's policy implications can be found in Chapter 7.

Research Gaps

The most pressing research gap identified by this study is the lack of a large scale, statistically robust survey of rural migration in Scotland, which would allow for the comparison of different areas and demographic groups, as well as the identification of common trends. However, the viability of such a survey will depend on its cost and the added value it could offer policy makers.

In addition, there is an apparent lack of insight into the impacts that in-migration can have on rural communities. A better understanding of this could be key for helping policy makers capitalise on the benefits of rural migration and minimise the negative impacts that can be associated with it.

The evidence base also suggests a lack of research focusing specifically on the motivations and expectations of return migrants, which could be key if policies are to be developed to attract them back into rural areas.

Lastly, the evidence base suggests a lack of up to date studies that examine older people's rural migration decisions, including those of the 'younger older' group - that is, those people at or nearing retirement age. Such studies could be crucial given the rapidly ageing nature of many rural populations across Scotland.

In all future research, there is a need to use the definitions given in the Scottish Government's Urban-Rural Classification. In particular, it will be important for research to distinguish between remote and accessible rural areas, as this is where many of the key differences between rural migration issues lie.

The evidence base also suggests a need for more segmentation in any future research examining rural migration decisions. This could help improve awareness of when and why certain 'push' factors become 'pull' factors. It could also help identify the demographic characteristics of 'in', 'out' and 'return' migrants, as well as those who remain living in rural areas.

More information on the most prominent research gaps, as identified by this review, can be found in Chapter 8.

Conclusions

The findings of this review reveal a great deal of individual and geographical variation in the factors influencing rural migration decisions. This makes it difficult to identify the key drivers, but it does highlight the need to appreciate such variation when developing policies.

The literature does, however, highlight some recurring considerations that are likely to have a more uniform influence on rural migration decisions. These include the need to secure a high quality job; the need for affordable housing options; the need for accessible and appropriate local shops and services; and the need to maintain social and/or family connections. For specific demographic groups, such as young people, families and older people, the literature suggests that additional drivers come into play, such as the availability of higher education, childcare services, and sheltered accommodation.

An analysis of these drivers suggests that it may be useful to divide individuals' motivations into two main groups: the factors that encourage them to move to rural areas in the first place, and those that enable this move to take place. Such a division could help ensure that all the factors influencing individuals' rural migration decisions are comprehensively considered by policy makers, and that policy approaches are appropriate given the nature of an individual's motivations.

An initial analysis of the literature suggests that, for in-migration to rural areas, some of the key sources of encouragement and their associated enablers could be as follows:

Table 1 Encouragers and enablers motivating individuals to move into rural areas

Encouragers

Enablers

Employment

Awareness of local job opportunities

High quality of employment (in terms of training, promotion, pay etc).

Access to jobs (the availability of public transport, car journey times, flexible working options etc).

Affordable housing within commutable distance from employment.

Awareness of affordable housing options.

Local cost of living relative to earning power.

Quality of life considerations

Job availability.

Awareness of local job opportunities.

An accurate perception of the quality of life available in rural areas.

Affordable housing options.

Awareness of affordable housing options.

Local cost of living relative to earning power.

Quality and accessibility of the local environment.

Access to outdoor activities and other leisure activities.

Perceived strong sense of community in the local area.

Social/family connections.

Family considerations (the assumption that rural areas offer the best environment for bringing up children)

Affordable housing options.

Awareness of affordable housing options.

The availability of high quality childcare, nursery and school provision, and appropriate access to it.

Awareness of the services and facilities available locally.

Local family and/or social connections.

Perceived strong sense of community in the local area.

Access to key services such as doctors and dentists.

Job availability / the ability to work remotely in current employment.

Awareness of local job opportunities.

Quality and accessibility of the natural environment.

Family ties / responsibilities

Job availability/ability to work remotely in current employment.

Awareness of local job opportunities.

Affordable housing.

Awareness of affordable housing options.

Opportunities available for retirees to enjoy a change of lifestyle

Affordable housing.

Awareness of affordable housing options.

Quality and accessibility of local medical services.

Availability of appropriate housing (sheltered/supported accommodation etc), and awareness of what is available.

Public transport connections.

Quality of the natural environment.

Opportunities to get involved in local community activities.

Good quality and appropriate shops, services and leisure facilities available locally.

In terms of out-migration, encouragers and enablers can also be identified from this review. Nevertheless, it should be noted that even if policy does address all these factors, it is not likely to stem out-migration entirely as some groups (for example, young people) may be particularly determined to leave, no matter how good their quality of life in a rural areas becomes. Policy should also carefully consider the implications of stemming out-migration from rural areas, given the potential benefits that this can bring in terms of helping residents to acquire new skills and experiences.

The literature reviewed here suggests that some of the encouragers and associated enablers for out-migration from rural areas could include the following:

Table 2 Encouragers and enablers motivating individuals to move out of rural areas

Encouragers

Enablers

Desire to pursue higher education opportunities available elsewhere

Limited higher education opportunities available locally.

Limited extra curricular opportunities available locally.

Limited leisure facilities and/or opportunities to socialise locally for those in higher education.

Limited opportunities for work experience and/or part time jobs available locally.

Peer/family pressure to move elsewhere for higher education.

Ambitions to have the best higher education available.

Desire for more autonomy/personal freedom.

Desire for adventure and new life experiences.

Dissatisfaction with the choice of lifestyle opportunities available.

Desire for more autonomy / personal freedom

Dissatisfaction with the nature and priorities of the local community.

Feeling under valued/ignored by the local community.

Peer/family pressure.

Dissatisfaction with the choice of lifestyle opportunities available.

Dissatisfaction with local affordable housing options.

Dissatisfaction with the local cost of living compared to the average earning power of young people in rural areas.

Desire to pursue job opportunities available elsewhere

Attraction of the range, nature and quality of employment available elsewhere, compared to that available locally.

Attraction of the accessibility of jobs available elsewhere compared to those available locally (in terms of public transport connections, car journey times etc).

Attraction of the relatively low cost of living relative to earning power available elsewhere, compared to locally.

Social/family pressure.

The attraction of professional contacts and networks available elsewhere, compared to locally.

Desire to experience an urban lifestyle

Dissatisfaction with the choice of lifestyle opportunities available locally.

An accurate perception of the quality of life available in urban areas.

Dissatisfaction with the number and range of leisure facilities and shops available locally (especially those suitable for young people).

Desire for adventure and for more personal autonomy.

Dissatisfaction with the cost of living in rural areas.

Peer pressure to try pursuing an urban lifestyle.

The above tables illustrate the highly qualitative nature of this review, which allows it to provide in-depth insight into the reasons behind individuals' movements into and out of rural Scotland. Consequently, this review is unable to provide an overview of rural migration decisions across Scotland, or to assess how such decisions are influenced. To gain such information, a statistically robust survey of rural migration across Scotland would be required.

More information on the conclusions drawn from this study can be found in Chapter 9.