Volume 42 - Article 9 | Pages 245–292

Remain, leave, or return? Mothers’ location continuity after separation in Belgium

By Christine Schnor, Julia Mikolai

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Date received:30 Sep 2018
Date published:13 Feb 2020
Word count:10597
Keywords:family instability, internal migration, life course, local ties, residential mobility, separation, social inequality


Background: Partnership dissolution can mark an extended period of residential instability for mothers and their children. Location continuity, i.e., the ability to stay in or return to the same neighbourhood after separation, is essential to reduce the negative consequences of separation.

Objective: We focus on mothers’ post-separation location continuity in the three years following separation and study the role of socioeconomic resources and local ties (to a home, neighbourhood, and region) in remaining in or returning to their pre-separation neighbourhood.

Methods: Using linked Belgian Census (2001) and register data (2001–2006), we estimate multinomial logistic regression models (N = 25,802). Based on the occurrence, frequency, and destination of moves, we distinguish between high, moderate, and low degrees of location continuity. We also study the probability of remaining in, leaving, or returning to the pre-separation neighbourhood.

Results: Mothers who live at their place of birth (a measure of local ties) tend to stay in or return to their pre-separation neighbourhood or region; if they have more socioeconomic resources they are more likely to remain in the family home. Mothers from disadvantaged backgrounds move further and more often.

Conclusions: If separated mothers lack socioeconomic resources and local ties, they are less likely to maintain location continuity. Policy programmes should target these women in order to provide better opportunities for separated mothers and their children.

Contribution: We introduce the concept of post-separation location continuity and account for separation-induced as well as post-separation residential changes in the first three years after separation.

Author's Affiliation

Christine Schnor - Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium [Email]
Julia Mikolai - University of St Andrews, United Kingdom [Email]

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

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» Union dissolution and housing trajectories in Britain
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» A decade of life-course research on fertility of immigrants and their descendants in Europe
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» The role of education in the intersection of partnership transitions and motherhood in Europe and the United States
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» Stepfather or biological father? Education-specific pathways of postdivorce fatherhood
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» Does waiting pay off for couples? Partnership duration prior to household formation and union stability
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