Sociology of planned migration: A study of planned migration process to new towns

Ejionye, Ukwu Agbai (1977). Sociology of planned migration: A study of planned migration process to new towns. PhD thesis The Open University.



Sociology of Planned Migration, the subject of this thesis, is the product of a research into the movement of firms and workers from the inner areas of London to new towns. It is mainly a contribution to the sociology of planning, although its broader aims and objectives are:

(a) To develop the concept of planned migration, based on the policy of dispersing and decentralising urban population and industries to new towns; and to use the concept as a framework to develop a distinctive area of knowledge known as Sociology of Planned Migration.
(b) To provide a descriptive account of a typical planned migration process, as the background for studying attitudes to out-migration from the city, and for promoting understanding of the nature of change involved in planned migration to new towns.
(c) To offer a theoretical explanation to planned migration decisions of city residents to new towns, and
(d) To explore the wider theoretical issues in Sociology and the policy implications which planned migration raises

The chosen locale for the research was one in which migrant firms provided their workers with the opportunity of choosing between moving out of the city to a new town or staying behind. The main issue was, therefore, one of determining how the workers exercised the vchoice between these alternatives, through their migration decisions. The problem was not only that of identifying the determinants of and the constraints on mobility, but also and more importantly, that of explaining their migration decisions and the frame of reference on which they were made. It was necessary to adopt a research design which would enable planned migration to be studied as a process of social change, so that conclusions may be drawn about the subjective interpretations and meanings that workers attached to out-migration, their attitudes to moving, the stages of transition and adaptative processes through which they had to pass to move to a new town, the decision-making process itself and the action frame of reference.

The method of study was based on testing the hypothesis that the migration decisions of city residents tend to be motivated by the desire to satisfy non-work aspirations, by carrying out a secondary analysis of the data from the Survey of Migrant Fi ms. This survey, involving four firms that moved from London to new towns, was undertaken by the author as a member of the research team on the New Towns Project sponsored by the Social Science Research Council. The main findings of the present research can be summarised as follows: -

1. Migration decision-making, as a process, is an adaptive response to a change of environment.
2. Migration decisions of city residents were based on cost-benefit analysis of the relative advantages and disadvantages of moving or staying behind.
3. The drop-out rate was 59%. This means that the firms, on average, transferred only 41% of their staff to their new locations in new towns.
4. Up to 61% of the working class respondents moved, compared with only 39% that did not.
5. Contrary to existing evidence on selectivity in migration, more older workers moved compared with the younger ones; and the skilled manual workers, the professionals and the technicians, as well as respondents with higher qualifications and formal training, tended to stay behind in spite of attractive inducements from employers.
6. Of those who moved, 17% were motivated by the desire to keep their jobs and to maintain their career progression; while the remaining 83% were motivated by the desire to satisfy non-work aspirations which are dominated by environmental quality and housing.

In addition to providing an opportunity for studying the migration process and attitudes to leaving the city for new towns, this research has both facilitated a better understanding of the nature of migration and decision-making, and contributed to the debate on environmental determinism, social mobility, non-work sociology, and the open system theory in industrial sociology. In all this, the aim has been to demonstrate the application of action frame of reference to the study of planned migration and industrial behaviour in a changing situation. In general, however, the findings have raised more questions than they would have answered For instance, is environmental quality increasingly becoming a social value and a new route to social mobility? In the near future, will the search for better environment increase the 'retreat into the suburbs' and hasten the death of the cities? How far does the finding about mobility of city residents to new towns by age, class and profession challenge current assumptions and knowledge from migration studies? These equations may teem rather provocative, but they indicate new directions in which planners may have to focus attention in order to improve their understanding of the relationship between the dynamics of urban population movement and future planning policies, with reference to new towns.

In the current debate about the relevance of the policy of dispersal and decentralisation of population and industries to new towns, many have argued that the policy has encouraged the decline of our cities. However, evidence from this research shows that whether or not such policy continues to operate movements out of the cities are inevitable. At the same time, it is also evident that whilst the new towns hold a great deal of attraction for some city residents, many others still find the city a valuable habitat. The policy implication of this situation suggests that to continue new town development simultaneously with the renewal of the cities would provide two equally desirable communities for work and living. The choice as to which is better must remain with the individual. Today, it is a fact that dispersal and decentralisation of population and the new town development have both become established features of British planning. It seems, therefore, appropriate that a systematic study of the influence of this innovation on social evolution, social policy, economic and regional planning and settlement patterns should now be a subject of academic interest under the title of Sociology of Planned Migration.

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