There have been a number of media reports in recent years about the exodus of young adults from London. One report from 2014 suggested that the number of thirty-somethings ‘fleeing’ the Capital was the highest on record. Rising housing costs are commonly cited as the main reason behind this apparent recent exodus of Londoners in their thirties.
However, while the cost of housing will be forcing some Londoners to move further afield, the longer-term trend indicates that thirtysomethings are more likely to leave London in higher numbers than other age groups.
Affordability though does play a part for some people in their decision to leave London particularly as London’s affordability has fallen recently in relation to both the East and South East regions as shown in the chart below.
Nearly 66 thousand Londoners in their thirties left the Capital in the year to mid-2015 to live elsewhere in the UK, a number that has been rising since 2009. The number moving into London, despite having also increased, is much lower meaning that more thirtysomethings leave London than move here resulting in a net outflow of this age group from London to elsewhere in the country.
This is however not a recent trend as data back to 2002 shows (the data is only available at this higher level of detail to then). The increase seen since 2009 brings outflows back to the level that they were prior to the financial crisis. One of the reasons why some may have concluded that recent levels were abnormally high is because the data containing the full age breakdown was not publicly available until this year when the GLA commissioned the tables from ONS.
The chart below based on ONS internal migration flow data shows that the number of Londoners leaving remains below levels seen in the early 2000s and the same applies to the overall net outflow as well. This indicates that the recent rises seen in outflows may simply be a return to migration trends that were occurring prior to the financial crisis of the late-2000s.
There has been an established pattern of migration for many years for those in their twenties to move to London to study and for employment before opting to move to move further out, either to Outer London or the Home Counties, in their thirties to raise families.
When the financial crisis hit, many people stayed who would otherwise have left and this was particularly the case for those in their thirties. This is an age group who are often established in their careers and with many having started a family. With children in the picture, many start to look outside of London to raise their family. However the financial crisis meant that better job prospects in the Capital than perhaps elsewhere and families not being able to afford to move, meant that many stayed put. A general slowdown in the housing market at the time suggests that many were less willing or able to purchase a house, with lenders also less likely to offer credit.
Now several years later, the data indicates that those in their thirties are once again on the move out of London. The chart below lines up the net outflow of children age 0 to 10 and age 0 to 15 alongside that of adults in their thirties. All three show a similar pattern over time with net outflow falling in the late-2000s during the financial crash but now rising to levels similar to those seen prior to this. Therefore although housing costs may be forcing some Londoners in their thirties to leave, this is an age group (along with children) who historically move out of the City in high numbers to begin with.