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Internal Migration Flows and Residential Segregation in Northern Ireland: Relations, Motivations and Geographical Variations. Gemma Catney PhD Research Student Centre for Spatial Territorial Analysis and Research (C-STAR) School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology (GAP)

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Internal Migration Flows and Residential Segregation in Northern Ireland: Relations, Motivations and Geographical Variations

Gemma Catney

PhD Research Student

Centre for Spatial Territorial Analysis and Research (C-STAR)

School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology (GAP)

Queen’s University, Belfast

3rd International Population Geographies Conference, Liverpool 2006

residential segregation in northern ireland
Residential Segregation in Northern Ireland
  • Religious residential segregation in NI – media and academic research
  • New academic research pointing towards residential segregation as either decreasing or staying the same
  • However, large geographic variations, with some increases in segregation in particular areas, and persistence in others
  • But why?
internal migration in northern ireland
Internal migration in Northern Ireland
  • In-situ growth vs. migration
  • Simpson (2004), in Urban Studies
  • Migration – reinforcement, erosion, creation of residential segregation?
  • How far is community background (area composition, etc.) important in migration decision-making?
  • Under-explored and little understood
presentation outline
Presentation outline
  • Methodology
  • Quantitative research
    • Migration rates
    • GWR
  • Qualitative research
    • Area selection
    • Interviews and focus groups
    • Cognitive mapping
    • 2 case study areas
  • Summary and conclusions


Migration rates

Geographically weighted regression (GWR)

SI modelling


Census of pop. of NI (2001)

Census grid square data (1971-2001)

Residents (movers and non-movers)

Key informants (community reps, property developers, etc.)

Estate agents


Semi-structured interviews

Focus groups



Participant observation

migration rates
Migration rates

Inflow rate (per 1000 pop.)

Outflow rate (per 1000 pop.)

migration by community background
Migration by community background

Catholic inflow over total inflow

Catholic outflow over total outflow

geographically weighted regression gwr
Geographically weighted regression (GWR)

Catholic residential composition against Catholic inflow, as proportion of total inflow (12km bandwidth)

  • Community background potentially very significant
  • Suggests reinforcement of residential segregation due to migration, in some places
  • But, a complex picture…
qualitative research
Qualitative research
  • Semi-structured interviews with:
    • residents of case study areas (movers and non-movers)
    • key informants – property developers, community representatives, etc.
  • Focus groups (and cognitive mapping exercise) with:
    • residents of case study areas (movers and non-movers)
  • Also, participant observation with estate agencies
area selection
Area selection
  • Interviewing in 6 case study areas as a basis for understanding case-specific and general processes and trends
  • Areas controlled for by:
      • Community background
      • Socioeconomic class (including tenure)
      • Location (inner city, middle city, suburban and near-rural)
  • A ‘representative’ sample according to demographic composition of area
case study areas
Case study areas
  • A transect approach
  • South Belfast
  • Incorporates 6 areas with aforementioned characteristics, plus wider processes:
      • Suburbanisation and counterurbanisation
      • Inner city residualisation
      • Inner city gentrification
      • Decentralisation of Protestant communities
      • Possible life-course characteristics
outline interviews
Outline: Interviews
  • General context
  • 2 case study areas:
    • Middle city ‘mixed’ area
    • Inner city Protestant community
  • General / ‘universal’ trends
area 1 ballynafeigh
Area 1: Ballynafeigh
  • Middle city, ‘mixed’ community
  • 1990s – mixed, with a slight Protestant majority
  • Present – mixed status under-threat, with an increasing Catholic majority and decreases in Protestants
  • Predominantly middle class
  • Becoming more affluent
  • Development – apartment blocks (gentrifying)
area 1 ballynafeigh1
Area 1: Ballynafeigh
  • Recruitment: Community facilitator and ‘For Sale’ & ‘To Let’ signs
  • Recurring themes:
    • Reputation as a mixed community important – in-migration of couples in mixed marriages
    • Graduates from the two universities (and some current students)
    • Starter homes for middle classes
    • Familiarity – either student near by, grew up in area, personal contacts
    • Perception that it is becoming more Catholic due to recent in-migration
area 1 ballynafeigh2
Area 1: Ballynafeigh
  • Some ‘cashing in’ on rising house prices and selling up
  • Out-migration (actual and hypothetical) tends to be to suburbs and rural areas – growing families wanting more quiet settings, a garden, less desire to be so close to the city centre, etc.
  • Area choice tends to be:
    • middle class
    • mixed (community background)
    • generally would not consider homogenous areas, but if would is always the ‘same side’ - safety
area 2 donegall pass
Area 2: Donegall Pass
  • Inner city Protestant (Loyalist) area
  • Predominantly working class
  • ‘Typical’ of working class Protestant communities – under threat, with a loss of population
  • Lack of suitable housing (social)
  • Decline in services and amenities
  • Gentrified from all sides – feeling ‘squeezed’
area 2 donegall pass1
Area 2: Donegall Pass
  • Recruitment: Community facilitator, focus groups and other contacts
  • Recurring themes:
    • For most, want to stay – lots of intra-area movement
    • Substantial out-migration due to shortage of suitable housing (Housing Executive)
    • Some ‘cashing in’ on rising house prices and selling up (mostly bought through RTB)
area 2 donegall pass2
Area 2: Donegall Pass
  • But few choose to move if can stay – mostly movement for space – migration a huge event: “[Moving was] like a death in the family…it was really really hard…still is” (Protestant female, mid-40s)
  • Retention of networks and contacts
  • Movement tends to be highly segregated – Protestants in, and movement out to Protestant areas – same with hypothetical area choice
  • Reinforced by those selling homes – advice to viewers
  • Housing Executive area choice – both choice and offered
general universal trends
General/ ‘universal’ trends

Reasons why move:

  • Dissatisfaction with current area/ property
  • More space
  • Garden
  • Closer to work
  • Closer to sick/ elderly relative
  • Health reasons
  • ‘Up and out’
  • Intimidation
general universal trends1
General/ ‘universal’ trends

Factors considered when do move/ have moved:

  • Familiarity – family ties, friends, where grew up, work, etc.
  • Most search few areas and few properties – fairly fixed ideas about ‘acceptable’ or not
  • Composition of the area (religion/ community background) a factor in most individuals’ decisions:
    • Fear / safety
    • Sectarianism
general universal trends2
General/ ‘universal’ trends
  • This may be overt:

“Completely Catholic areas. Because, I mean, I wouldn’t get a chance to live in it” (Protestant female, 40, Protestant area)

“Idon’t think we would move into Loyalist areas…I mean, it stands to sense” (Catholic male, mid 20s, mixed area)

  • Or less direct
  • For those claiming religion was not an issue, still had firm views about areas to avoid – mainly highly segregated areas, both Nationalist and Loyalist, regardless of the religion of the interviewee
general universal trends3
General/ ‘universal’ trends
  • Most tend to consider areas of same ‘type’ as those already in – e.g. residents of working class areas choose working class areas – familiarity, horizons, but also more conscious – the ‘sense of community’.
  • However, for some, social aspirations come to the fore
  • Areas selected tended to be similar for individuals within each area
  • Some forced/ designed segregation – role of institutions
mapping exercise
Mapping exercise
  • ‘Fixed’ views

reinforced in the



  • Area perceptions

and residential


  • Themes which are area/case-specific and general
  • Reasons why people move tend to relate to ‘usual’ factors, plus NI effect
  • Area selection (real and hypothetical):
    • Familiarity
    • Similar ‘types’, plus some aspirations
    • Mixed, or ‘same side’
  • Potential reinforcement of segregation
  • Mixture of methods has led to a rich tapestry
  • Quantitative analysis points to a relationship between migration and residential segregation, although the picture is complex
  • Qualitative research shows that community background has a strong influence, although other factors are important
  • In addition to natural increase (in-situ growth), spatial reorganisation of the population is also having a major impact on changes in segregation
  • My supervisor, Dr Ian Shuttleworth, for his comments and advice
  • The participants in my interviews and focus groups
  • The community representatives, for their insight, and assistance in recruitment
  • Department for Employment and Learning (DEL), for funding
  • Contested Cities, Urban Universities (CU2) research team and funding body (European Programme Peace 2)