Overview and Introduction: Chapter 2

Birth… and the suburban pied piper

Exercise

An exercise for 20 to 100 players

Form yourselves into the map of Britain or your local area according to your place of birth as described at the end of Chapter 1. Now, put up your hands if you moved home in your first year of life. Quite a few of you should have done this. Parents often find the home they are in unsuitable for a small baby, or need to move home urgently to get more space. Now raise your hands if you moved in your second year of life, third year, fourth year, fifth year, and so on. Is there any pattern to when your parents moved home? Did those living closest to city centres or who were first-born children move earlier. What about the direction of travel. How many moved towards the centres of towns and how many into the suburbs? Next, everyone with their hands up needs to move around the room, each in a precise direction so that the map is reformed by where you had moved to in your first few years.

By now you should all be located according to where you first went to school by age 5. Carry on the exercise, raising your hands if you moved, or moved again, at ages 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 or 11. There might be a sudden increase in the later two years. It depends partly on what kind of education system was in place where you lived at this time, but in many areas where you go to secondary school depends on where you lived at age 10. Obviously having older brothers and/or sisters complicates that picture, as do parents separating. A more sophisticated form of this exercise would have you playing the part of your oldest sibling. Age 10 is a peak year for migration in Britain. Reform the map to reflect your distribution by age 11.

Carry on to 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17. Do you notice any unusual changes in direction here? These are often the ages at which families are most settled geographically, but you might notice quite a few people moving home between age 15 (GCSE year) and the start of AS and A level studies. Finally, if you are in an old university, note the high migration rates of almost all of you at age 18 or 19. For those who doubt the importance of education on migration (and migration on education) ask yourselves why Britain runs a system, unlike almost any other in the world, in which between a third and a half of its 18 year olds are expected to not only leave home, but often to leave the village, town or city they grew up in and be scattered across the country in a way which appears random, but which you will know (if you have applied to university) is incredibly closely controlled by A level grades and quotas. The quotas might well be about to go, but exam grades might matter more than ever before as a result of other changes in student funding coming in from October 2012. If you are reading this book in Scotland or Ireland, your experience may be more like that found elsewhere in the world and you are unlikely to have moved as far from home. The same will be true if you are attending a 'new' (i.e. post-1992) university.

Finally, go forward in time and predict where you will be at ages 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 30, 40, 50, 60 and 70. Will you be part of the majority who fit the stereotypes being described here or do you think you may be a little different? (Most people think they will be different. Most of course, are not.)

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