Considering moving to another city or crossing state lines? You could be either financially or emotionally better off if you decide to relocate, according to two new reports from the Motu Economic and Public Policy Research institute, a non-profit based in New Zealand.   

The study focused on internal migration within Australia, defining it as a residential move of 25km or more. 

Your motives could determine your well-being post-move

The first report, Wages, Wellbeing and Location: Slaving Away in Sydney or Cruising on the Gold Coast, took a sample of 2,474 people aged between 25 to 60, tracking them up to four years before and after their move. 

By analysing the relationships between subjective well-being (SWB), wages, and internal migration, the researchers made some interesting insights. The published articles also measured weekly wages and monitored SWB by asking participants to rate their life satisfaction from zero to 10. 

“We looked at the reasons why people leave and relocate,” said senior Motu fellow Arthur Grimes. “Market factors, such as low wages and unemployment, may motivate people to leave, but we found they were choosing places based on subjective wellbeing.”

When people move to their intended destinations, they experience a lift in life satisfaction, and how much depends partly on the reason for the move, said Grimes. “We found quite a lot of difference in terms of motivation.”  

There appeared to be a trade-off: People who moved for work-related reasons received increased wages, but didn’t experience as big of an increase in subjective well-being compared to people who moved for other reasons, including being closer to family and friends. “However, those who moved for non-work-related reasons tended to have more of a wage cut,” said Grimes.     

The report also found that there was a noticeable downward trend in well-being during the lead-up to the migration, followed by a sharp increase in the year of moving that is sustained thereafter. 

“There are several potential explanations for such a finding: migration could be triggered by a fall in wellbeing associated with some unobserved events; the anticipation of an improved situation could alter one’s satisfaction with what the individual has now; or the lead-up to migration may be stressful, resulting in a decrease in wellbeing.” 

Men and women experience relocation differently 

The second report, entitled Migration and Gender: Who Gains and in Which Ways?, analysed the same samples and assessed the differences experienced by both men and women who were either single or moved as a couple. 

The report revealed that just 30% of participants relocated for work-related reasons. Single men were more likely to move for work (40%), while only 25% of single women moved for work. 

“[Data shows] that when only one partner in a couple moves for a work reason, that partner is more often male than female. However, among couples overall, it is more common for both partners to report that they moved for a work-related reason, and even more common for neither partner to report moving for a work-related reason,” said Grimes.

The researcher also found that for singles, though wages increase significantly only for men after moving, wellbeing increases for both men and women. These gains are enjoyed for several years after moving.