Home moves in early years: the impact on children in the US and the UK


Is the upheaval of moving home detrimental to young children’s development? Professor Heather Joshi and colleagues explore this question in the context of the US and UK.

Research details

Project title

Home moves in early years: the impact on children in the US and the UK

Project leads

Professor Heather Joshi, CLS


Child development

Housing and local environment


May 2013 – June 2015


Economic and Social Research Council


The project is designed to establish how much and in what circumstances moving home can be said to harm or enhance child development, and the extent to which the greater rate of early years home moving in the US, compared to UK, may be reflected in greater difficulties for children.  We ask whether transition towards a freer housing market in UK may have unintended effects on children.

We compare two large samples of families who had a baby around 2000: the Fragile Families and Wellbeing Study in US and the Millennium Cohort Study in UK. We will follow these families and where they lived up to age 5. There is a host of information about parental capabilities and circumstances which may help account for why they moved (or not) and how well their children progress. We will be able to gauge child progress in a comparable way on behavioural adjustment, verbal ability and their general health.

We will describe how many families, in each country, move home in a child’s first five years, when, how often, how far, and reasons given. We will classify moves as resulting in better or worse housing, parental employment or neighbourhood than the situation movers left behind, and compare movers with stayers. We then model the various precursors of moving and outcomes for children of various sorts of moves. The models will be as comparable as possible between two countries to see if the different residential stability regimes are reflected in different child outcomes. Care will be taken to derive indicators as closely comparable as possible on such key variables as neighbourhood quality and family poverty status.



Moving home in the early years: Family and child outcomes in the UK and US


Featured scientific publications

Buttaro, A., Gambaro, L., Joshi, H., Lennon, M.C.
Does Residential Mobility Affect Child Development at Age Five? A Comparative Study of Children Born in US and UK Cities (2022)
Developmental Psychology
Read the full paper
Gambaro, L., Buttaro, A., Joshi, H., Lennon, M.C.
Neighborhood and Child Development at Age Five: A UK–US Comparison (2021)
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Read the full paper
Mostafa, T., Gambaro, L., Joshi, H.
The Impact of Complex Family Structure on Child Well-being: Evidence From Siblings (2018)
Journal of Marriage and Family
Read the full paper
Buttaro, A., Gambaro, L.
The Index of Local Area Relative Disadvantage: A Cross-Country Comparison (2018)
CLS Working Paper 2018/3. London: Centre for Longitudinal Studies.
Read the full paper
Gambaro, L., Joshi, H., Lupton, R.
Moving to a better place? Residential mobility among families with young children in the Millennium Cohort Study (2017)
Population, Space and Place
Read the full paper
Lennon, M., Clark, W., & Joshi, H.
Residential mobility and wellbeing: exploring children’s living situations and their implications for housing policy (2016)
Longitudinal and Life Course Studies
Read the full paper
Mostafa, T.
Measuring the impact of residential mobility on response: evidence from the Millennium Cohort Study (2016)
Longitudinal and Life Course Studies
Read the full paper
Clark, W.
Life events and moves under duress: disruption in the life course and mobility outcomes (2016)
Longitudinal and Life Course Studies
Read the full paper
Beck, B., Buttaro Jr, A., & Lennon, M.
Home moves and child wellbeing in the first five years of life in the United States (2016)
Longitudinal and Life Course Studies
Read the full paper
Gambaro, L., & Joshi, H.
Moving home in the early years: what happens to children in the UK? (2016)
Longitudinal and Life Course Studies
Read the full paper
Lupton, R.
Housing policies and their relationship to residential moves for families with young children (2016)
Longitudinal and Life Course Studies
Read the full paper
Gambaro, L., Joshi, H., Lupton, R., Fenton, A., Lennon, M.C.
Developing Better Measures of Neighbourhood Characteristics and Change for Use in Studies of Residential Mobility: A Case Study of Britain in the Early 2000s (2015)
Applied Spatial Analysis and Policy
Read the full paper
Gambaro, L., Joshi, H., Lupton, R., Lennon, M.C.
A Pragmatic Approach to Measuring Neighbourhood Poverty Change (2014)
DoQSS Working Paper 14-08. London: Institute of Education
Read the full paper


Heather Joshi Emeritus Professor

Phone: 020 7612 6874
Email: h.joshi@ucl.ac.uk

With a background in economic demography, notably on women’s lifetime incomes, Heather became the founder director of the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), and of the Centre as a whole. She has retired from these roles but continues to provide advice within and beyond the department, based on that experience.

More recently Heather led a project, ‘Moving Home in the Early Years’ which compared the MCS with a cohort from the US. She is currently a co-investigator on two research projects about child development in the MCS: ‘Trajectories of Conduct Problems from Ages 3 to 11’ (Principle Investigator Leslie Gutman) and ‘Early family risk, school context, and children’s joint trajectories of cognitive ability and mental health’(Principal Investigator Eirini Flouri). In April 2017 Heather became the Executive Editor of the journal, Longitudinal and Lifecourse Studies.

Ludovica Gambaro Marie Skodowska-Curie Fellow, DIW Berlin

Email: l.gambaro@ucl.ac.uk

Ludovica worked in CLS from 2013 to 2016, mainly on the Millennium Cohort Study and she continues to collaborate with researchers in CLS.

Her main areas of interest are inequalities in child development, early childhood education and care services, residential mobility.

Mary Clare Lennon Visiting Fellow

Email: m.lennon@ucl.ac.uk

Mary Clare Lennon is a professor at the Graduate Centre of the City University of New York (CUNY) in the PhD Program in Sociology and DPH Program in Public Health.  She has recently been granted an award from the National Centre for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) to analyze data from a US birth cohort study, the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, and is working with Prof. Heather Joshi to develop a comparative study of the US and UK, using Fragile Families and the Millennium Cohort Study to investigate childhood residential mobility. Funding for this collaboration has been received from the ESCR/SSRC Collaborative Visiting Fellowship Program.

For more information on Mary Clare, please see the CUNY Graduate Centre website.

Ruth Lupton University of Manchester

Anthony Buttaro University of New York

Relevant studies

Contact us

Centre for Longitudinal Studies
UCL Social Research Institute

20 Bedford Way
London WC1H 0AL

Email: clsdata@ucl.ac.uk

Follow us