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Focus on London moves

ONS analysis of the age and sex of internal migrants into and out of London for the year ending June 2013.

This short report is published as a supplement to the annual internal migration publication. In the context of this report, an internal migrant is an individual who moved into the London region from the rest of the UK, or out of the London region to the rest of the UK. International moves into or out of London are not included.

In June 2013 the estimated population of London was 8.4 million (ONS, 2014). Over the previous 12 months an estimated 197,000 internal migrants moved into London and 252,000 moved out, the highest inflow and outflow of all English regions. This resulted in a net outflow of 55,000. Note, however, that during this period London’s population actually grew because of international migration and more births than deaths.

Figure 1 shows London inflows, outflows and netflows by age, for males and females separately, for the year ending June 2013. The orange line shows the number of people who moved into London (inflow) and the blue line shows the number of people who moved out of London (outflow). The green bar shows the netflow. This means that when the figure for netflow is positive, inflow outnumbered outflow. The patterns for both sexes were very similar across most ages, although for females in their 20s there were more inflows than outflows and therefore a greater overall netflow to London.

Figure 1: Internal migration moves into and out of London, by sex and age, year ending June 2013

Figure 1: Internal migration moves into and out of London, by sex and age, year ending June 2013
Source: Office for National Statistics


  1. Netflow = Inflow - Outflow
  2. Age of internal migrants is based on age at mid-2013 (specifically 30 June) rather than age at date of move. Many people’s age at mid-2013 will have been one year older than when they moved. This will have had particular impact at age 0 (approximately half of people who moved aged 0 will have been aged 1 by mid-2013) and at student ages. For this reason moves at age 0 have been excluded from the chart.

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Possible factors explaining why people moved into and out of London

Young people move out of London for education

For people aged 19, outflow was 2,500 higher than inflow for females and 2,800 higher for males. This is likely to be driven by young adults moving in and out of London for higher education.1 

London is likely to be the top destination for graduates moving for work

For most ages in the 20s the number of people moving into London outnumbered the number of people moving out of London for both sexes. The peak occurred at age 23 and is likely to be driven by young adults seeking work in London, potentially after they graduated from university.

In 2012, London had the highest concentration of graduates of any region in the UK.  An estimated 60% of the residents of inner London were graduates and 45% of the residents of outer London were graduates (graduates is defined here as everyone with qualifications above A level standard), compared with a national average of only 38%. (Graduates in the UK Labour Market ONS, 2013)

One reason why there are more females moving to London than males between ages 20 and 25 could be the higher number of female graduates than male. According to HESA (2014) the total number of HE students at UK higher education institutions stood at 2.3 million in 2012/13, of which 56% were females.

London may be appealing to young adults following graduation due to more job opportunities, a higher salary and also the perception of a better social life when compared with the rest of the UK.

The concentration of young adults in London is demonstrated by ONS Regional Labour Market Statistics (2013: Table HI07, Tab 2) , which shows that there were a total of 3.88 million people aged 16 and over in employment in London in June 2013, of whom 32% were in the 25 to 34 age group. This is a substantially higher proportion than in any other region or country within Great Britain (the statistics do not include equivalent data for Northern Ireland).

From their 30s onwards, more people leave London

The internal moves patterns for males and females are very similar from age 30 onwards, with more people leaving London than moving in. The peak occurs at age 36 for males and age 34 for females.

A key factor for people in their 30s and 40s who move out of London could be the cost of housing. Young couples wishing to buy their first house, or a larger one for a growing family, may find prices in London prohibitively expensive and therefore choose to live outside of London. The House Price Index (ONS, 2014) shows that in 2013 London had the highest average price for all dwellings in the UK at £428,000, well ahead of the South East at £305,000 and the East of England at £258,000. This was a 4.2% increase from 2012, the highest across all regions.

Another important reason may be that people with children are more likely to move out of London because of environmental or social factors. For example, they may be seeking somewhere greener and quieter, and may also perceive that a less urban neighbourhood offers a better social and educational environment for children. Moves of adults with children also explains why there is a net outflow of children from London.

Although far fewer people move at older ages, the net outflow continues at all ages including in the 90+ category. Potential reasons for moves out of London at older ages may be environmental factors, seeking a change in lifestyle and moves to be closer to family.


1 Moves into the military, which were referred to when this article was first published, are not in fact included in these statistics.

Categories: Population, Migration, Migration within the UK
Content from the Office for National Statistics.
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