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The escalator region hypothesis two decades on: a review and critique

2nd May 2013 1pm, University of Southampton 58/1065

Tony Champion, Newcastle University

The aim is to see how well Tony Fielding's (1989, 1992) 'escalator region' hypothesis has stood the test of time. The original model comprised three components: people stepping onto the escalator early in their working lives by moving to SE England, riding the escalator to benefit from the faster career progression there and finally stepping off at retirement or in late working age having achieved their goals and now wishing to enjoy the rewards. I start by briefly reviewing subsequent studies by Fielding himself and others and then present the results of 3 pieces of my own work using the same source as Fielding, the ONS Longitudinal Study (LS) of linked census microdata records 1971-2001. One of the 3 studies focuses on the final, stepping-off component, tracing what happened to LS members who moved to SE England between 1966 and 1971 and finding that most of those who had left the SE by 2001 had done so by 1981 and seem to have followed a similar social mobility trajectory as those who stayed. The second test relates to the first two components and points out that not everyone managed to gain from stepping onto the escalator, with a hard core experiencing downward mobility. The third study (undertaken with colleagues at the ESRC's Spatial Economics Research Centre and now nearing completion) is primarily aimed at discovering whether any of the other major agglomerations in England comes close to rivalling London as an escalator, using an urban rather than regional geography and leading to results that raise, among others, the question as to how much of any upward mobility by in-migrants occurred at the time of the move as opposed to resulting from time spent on the escalator after the move.

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