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Government / Local politics

UK internal migration stats: here are three things you need to know

Yesterday, the government released a new round of internal migration figures, covering 2014-15. They show how people who already live in the UK move around each year, and can be quite revealing – and they have some interesting implications for the north and the Northern Powerhouse agenda.

1. The north is a magnet for students, but loses too many graduates

The north’s 29 higher education institutions are clearly a draw to many young people: they educate 521,000 undergraduates at any one time. Today’s figures show 15-19 year olds moving to the north in large number: the North East saw in influx of 9,000, the North West 15,000, and Yorkshire & Humber 19,000 – this was more than moved out in two of these regions. (The exception was the North West.)

But those aged 20-29 tended to leave the north in greater number than they arrived. The north’s cities have long prioritised retaining graduates, but the other half of this equation is also important: research has shown that a major reason the north falls short is because those who leave to study elsewhere in the UK are less likely to return once they’ve graduated.


2. London is growing – but not how you think

While the capital is a magnet for the 20-29 year olds, other age groups have a greater tendency to leave. Some 113,000 people aged 20-29 moved into London, far more than moved out (75,000).

But every other age group saw a net reduction in population. If it weren’t for those 20-somethings, London’s population would have fallen by 78,000 (0.9 per cent).

3. Rural areas in the north are most popular for inward migrants

Large numbers of people do move to the north – but it is some of the rural areas that benefit most.

Some 185,000 people moved into the north from other UK regions in 2015. This includes 31,000 people moving from London, and almost twice as many (60,000) from the Midlands.

But the northern districts that saw largest influxes relative to their size were rural: Wyre, Ryedale and Fylde. Even in absolute terms it was the rural districts which saw the biggest increases: Cheshire West and Chester, Wyre, and Durham. This indicates the attraction of rural areas as place to live – but many will of course travel to work in the major cities.

It is clear from these figures that the North is a place where many want to live, but that they aren’t necessarily attracted to the north’s urban centres. At the same time many leave the north to live elsewhere in the UK – particularly young graduates.

Understanding why both of these moves occur will be in important first step towards a more prosperous northern economy.

Luke Raikes is a research fellow at IPPR North. He tweets at @lukeraikes.

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