Volume 36 - Article 10 | Pages 307–338  

Family migration in a cross-national perspective: The importance of institutional and cultural context

By Sergi Vidal, Francisco Perales, Philipp M. Lersch, Maria Brandén

This article is part of the Special Collection 20 "Finding Work‒Life Balance: History, Determinants, and Consequences of New Breadwinning Models in the Industrialized World"


Objective: Migration rates of dual-earner couples are lower than those of male-breadwinner couples. We revisit this issue using a cross-national comparative perspective and examine heterogeneity in the role of female employment in couple relocations. We propose a theoretical framework in which national levels of support for female employment and normative expectations about gender roles act as moderators of the relationship between couple type (i.e., dual-earner and male-breadwinner) and family migration.

Methods: We deploy discrete-time event history analyses of harmonised longitudinal data from four large-scale datasets from Australia, Britain, Germany, and Sweden, covering the 1992-2011 period.

Results: Consistent with prior research, we find that male-breadwinner couples migrate more often than dual-earner couples in all countries, suggesting that traditional gender structures affecting family migration operate across very different contexts. We also find cross-country differences in the estimated effects of different sorts of absolute and relative partner resources on family migration.

Conclusions: We take our results as preliminary evidence that national contexts can serve as moderators of the relationship between within-couple employment arrangements and family migration decisions.

Contribution: Our study contributes to family migration literature by illustrating how cross-national comparisons are a valuable methodological approach to put prevailing micro-level explanations of the relationship between female employment and family migration in context.

Author's Affiliation

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