Research Projects Using Growing Up Data

Moving for good? The influence of residential mobility on unmet health care needs and child health

Publication Date:
Lead Organisation:
University of Waikato
Lead Researcher:
Jesse Whitehead, Kate Prickett, Polly Atatoa-Carr, Sarah-Jane Paine
Access Type:
Primary Classification:
Secondary Classification:
Family and Whanau

The crisis of Aotearoa New Zealand’s (NZ) unaffordable and poor-quality housing conditions has resulted in high rates of housing mobility. Prior research identifies a strong link between poor housing conditions and poor child health outcomes, likely exacerbated by unmet primary health care needs. International findings show high residential mobility is disruptive to children’s lives and associated with worse health and psychosocial outcomes. In NZ, the impact of residential mobility on child health and health service access is not well understood, particularly within the context of other factors related to housing instability, such as tenure and overcrowding and involuntary moves. Moreover, whether when residential mobility happens in a child’s life matters for their development is poorly understood. If residential mobility affects health service access, it may disproportionately impact children’s health at critical periods, driving inequities.

Thus, this research has three key objectives. First, to identify residential mobility patterns across early-to-mid childhood. Second, to examine who is most at-risk—and who is protected from—housing instability. Third, to explore associations between residential mobility, access to primary health services, and child health.

These objectives will be examined with a critical lens on ethnic and socioeconomic inequities, and the disparate impact these patterns may have for tamariki Māori, Pacific children, and low-income families. The study does so by leveraging longitudinal data from Growing Up in New Zealand and sophisticated statistical techniques, including social sequence analysis and structural equation modelling.

Understanding inequities in residential mobility with respect to health service access and child outcomes has implications for programmes and policies aimed at improving child wellbeing.