2.1. Three Levels of Job-to-Job Mobility
Individual perspective. Individual differences play a role in job mobility as dispositional attributes affect a person’s preferences for and subsequent behaviours associated with job mobility. Previous research points to several key individual factors that are consistently found to be determinants of occupational progression. First, there are gender differences in job changing behaviour. Men are more likely to consider a job change (Xing and Yang 2005
), they change jobs more often (Park et al. 2015
), and they have more chances of upward labour mobility than women (Sacchi et al. 2016
). Another important predictor of job mobility is age. The probability of job transitions declines steadily through the course of one’s working life (Kattenbach et al. 2014
; Xing and Yang 2005
) and age is negatively related to the frequency of job changes (Steenackers and Guerry 2016
). For education, it has been shown that higher educated individuals transition to other jobs less frequently, because they tend to be already well-matched with their employers (Stijepic 2015
). Highly educated workers are not inherently unable to reallocate but are even more likely to find a new job if they are searching and have greater chances of promotion within a firm (Ferreira 2009
Decisional perspective. The decisional perspective on job mobility is grounded in the theory of planned behaviour. The decision for job mobility is based on the evaluation of three factors: subjective norms, the desirability of the mobility option, and the individual’s readiness for change (Ng et al. 2007
). Following a rational choice approach, an employee will decide to change jobs if the expected net benefits derived from the new position exceed the net benefits derived from the present job. The cost side is shaped by various factors, including information costs or the time required to find a new job. Benefits of job transition can be a higher salary, better promotion opportunities, or a shorter commuting distance. Kronenberg and Carree
) showed, for the Netherlands, that individuals assess the advantages and disadvantages of changing one’s job by taking into account the strength of their family- and job-related ties as well as the presence of internal and external career options. Workers with low levels of satisfaction with the job and working environment and job security are more likely to consider a change in employment and to actively look for other jobs (Xing and Yang 2005
). Additionally, conflicts with the supervisor, higher physical and emotional strain, and lower degrees of commitment are found to also be determinants of job change (Swaen et al. 2002
). Pilar de Luis Carnicer et al.
) found that an employee’s perceptions about job satisfaction, pay fairness, and work-family conflicts are actually more explanatory of labour mobility than traditional job-related factors such as pay or social benefits.
Structural perspective. The third perspective on job mobility is the structural perspective, which accounts for macro-level factors that determine the opportunity structure of job change in the labour market. This can include, among others, economic conditions and industry differences. It could be shown that workers can minimize the impact of individual determinants and endogenous causalities on their employment trajectories by taking advantage of good opportunity structures and framework conditions (Dütsch and Struck 2014
). For an in-depth understanding of regional effects that this paper seeks to achieve, the structural level can be broken down further.
While a person’s achievements are considered in terms of her socio-economic outcomes and her integration into social relations as resulting from her individual traits, the same achievements can be seen as dependent on the opportunities the person has available to develop and apply these traits (Bernard et al. 2022
). Beyond their individual characteristics, a person’s life chances are affected by the structural attributes of their place of living. Therefore, Bernard et al.
) argue that social inequalities can be regarded as a function of individual capital and available opportunities, and the interactions between them. Such opportunities arise from the person’s social environment, and they are often spatially diverse. The concept of regional opportunity structures developed by Bernard et al.
) serves as a heuristic and analytical tool for deepening the understanding of the spatiality of social inequality and to identify the regional mechanisms that produce inequality. The term ‘geography of opportunity’ was originally coined by Galster and Killen
) and addressed the fact that opportunities are distributed spatially and not always in a balanced way. The concept of regional opportunity structures helps to grasp the broader context in which individual actions take place and is applied to investigate the regional mechanisms that affect job-to-job mobility in this study, which is one inequality-shaping process.
2.2. Regional Opportunity Structures of Job-to-Job Mobility
Regional opportunity structures refer to three interrelated aspects that highlight the links between the spatial context and the (non-)utilisation of opportunities by individuals: the unequal availability, accessibility, and quality of different institutionalised opportunities (Bernard et al. 2022
). While people are embedded in a given regional context of opportunity structures, they are active agents within it, and their perceptions and uses of opportunity structures are contingent on their capacities, interests, and ideals (Bernard et al. 2022
). As the theoretical concept of regional opportunity structures suggests, previous studies could find that locational factors enable and constrain the ability and propensity of individual job mobility. Structural factors affect the opportunities for job mobility and, thus, differences in the level of regional development may manifest themselves as regional differences in job mobility as well (Ng et al. 2007
). Despite the attention that determinants of job mobility have received by empirical research, a number of authors point to a lack of attention on locational factors and the broader context in which job mobility occurs (Dütsch and Struck 2014
; Kattenbach et al. 2014
; Ng et al. 2007
). Following Bernard et al.
), regional opportunity structures consist of four types: economic opportunities, including regional labour markets providing jobs; public and private services; institutionalised opportunities for community and civic engagement; and the natural and the built environment.
The first and most relevant aspect of opportunity structures in the question of context effects on job-to-job mobility are economic opportunities. In this regard, Bernard et al.
) formulated two hypotheses to explain, in more depth, the effects of regional labour markets on the economic situations of individuals and households. First, the sectoral composition of a given labour market and its dynamics significantly affect the availability of jobs, income, and job security (Curtis et al. 2019
). The spatial concentration of higher wage and lower wage industrial sectors helps to explain the existing regional differences in social inequalities. Moreover, the rise and fall of individual sectors shape spatial inequalities to a significant extent. Second, the density of the labour market is a strong predictor of efficiency and productivity, and thus influences the potential returns to employees. As cities and urban regions benefit from agglomeration economies and better job-match quality, their labour markets are more productive and, in turn, their wages are higher than those of rural areas (Andersson et al. 2007
Besides affecting the reality of the labour market via the expansion or downsizing of firms, economic conditions also affect people’s job mobility through influencing their willingness to try new job mobility options (Kattenbach et al. 2014
; Ng et al. 2007
). Perceptions of favourable economic conditions can increase employees’ aspirations for more fulfilling work and generate higher rates of career progression (Feldman 2002
; McCollum et al. 2018
). More densely populated areas offer more and better employment opportunities, especially in periods of economic growth. During periods of economic decline, employees in rural areas face a greater risk of unemployment. In general, job-to-job hires display significant cyclical variation (Azzopardi et al. 2020
). Thus, the business cycle possibly amplifies unequal employment opportunities in differently structured regions (Dütsch and Struck 2014
). Additionally, employees profit from a higher regional level of human capital during an economic downturn, because transitions between firms become more frequent (Dütsch and Struck 2014
). Therefore, the spatially uneven nature of economic and labour market opportunities implies that besides being highly skilled, it is also important to work in specific types of places. However, Ganesch et al.
) found that after a move, company characteristics are more important for income growth than the economic structural environment in the destination region.
The most relevant aspect of the regional economy for job mobility is the constitution of the labour market. Sociologists have long suggested that job mobility is vacancy driven. However, the availability of job mobility options is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition to motivate employees to pursue job mobility options (Ng et al. 2007
). Since there is a cost of regional mobility, a person’s employment opportunities tend to be in the region where they live, but the degree of options can vary greatly between regions of the same country (Gordon et al. 2015
Larger urban areas offer opportunities for accelerated job mobility for those who work there. Individuals make use of the abundance of nearby alternative offers in the job market; thus, there is a higher propensity to change jobs in urban areas (Kronenberg and Carree 2012
). Increasing house prices in the destination region relative to the origin region is not associated with slower worker mobility in this regard (Coleman and Zheng 2020
The second aspect of regional opportunity structures is the availability of, access to, and the quality of public and private services. Services are provided by a wide range of institutions that offer people opportunities to both achieve their desired socio-economic outcomes and also to satisfy people’s individual needs and ambitions in terms of education, health, consumer services, and housing (Bernard et al. 2022
). Housing is a cross-cutting issue that arises when considering spatial opportunity structures, as the place of residence is a decisive factor in the availability, accessibility, and quality of the range of opportunities. Yet housing itself is an institutionalised opportunity structure as it depends on housing policies (Bernard et al. 2022
The third aspect of regional opportunity structures are institutionalised opportunities for community and civic engagement. Such participation is difficult to provide without physical meeting spaces, i.e., community centres, clubs, town halls, cafes, theatres, and churches, which depend on public and private funding. These spaces are unequally distributed in space, and they are harder to maintain in rural regions than in metropolitan regions, which entails an urban-rural divide (Knabe et al. 2021
The fourth aspect of regional opportunity structures are the natural and the built environment. The natural environment is a major opportunity that is regularly attributed to rural areas. Rural areas are not only associated with nature and its beauty, but also with the ecosystem services (Gutman 2007
) they provide for the entire society. The latter and more functional understanding of the role of rural areas also includes the provision of food and fresh water and recreational and leisure opportunities (Bernard et al. 2022
). In addition to the natural environment, the built features of regions can provide opportunities, particularly regarding housing. Being able to own a home is again part of the institutional opportunity structure of rural areas. However, rural gentrification, whereby the better off make use of the opportunities of beautiful natural scenery in the countryside, contributes to selectively rising house prices and the displacement of lower income groups (Bernard et al. 2022
From the theoretical concept of regional opportunity structures and the findings of previous empirical studies, the question arises as to how regional opportunity structures affect the propensity for job transition. Taking the considerations above into account, it appears that job transitions are, to a high degree, determined by the availability of job opportunities and thereby by the state of the regional economy. In regions with a strong economy, more jobs are created, and these vacancies offer more opportunities for job changes for employees. Workers may be more likely to switch jobs to take advantage of new opportunities and higher wages in such situations. However, an increase in the number of job vacancies in a local labour market might motivate employers to invest in their existing employees and to incentivize them to stay in their position. Employers would thereby protect the specific human capital their employees hold. Thus, despite a growing number of opportunities for job-to-job transitions, individuals may be less likely to change jobs in regions with good economic opportunities. Overall, the findings from previous research lead to the following hypothesis:
A stronger economy with a higher number of job vacancies constitutes a good economic opportunity structure for workers, which makes individual job changes more likely.
Job change and income increase. As stated above, job transitions are one way to increase income and thereby move upwards socially. Job-to-job flows tend to be a main mechanism for workers to increase their earnings and to engage in career progression (Haltiwanger et al. 2018
). This mechanism is particularly important for young people to move up the job ladder; for example, young people aged from 14 to 24 account for almost a third of all job-to-job moves in the U.S., but less than 15% of total employment. (Azzopardi et al. 2020
). However, even though job transitions are generally associated with income increases, a non-negligible number of job changes are associated with a reduction in income. In New Zealand, these account for approximately 40% of all job changes, but are presumably due to a change in the number of working hours (Coleman and Zheng 2020
For a better understanding of regional income disparities, it is worthwhile to investigate whether and how regions affect the propensity to realise an increase in income when changing jobs. Regional economic conditions, job availability, and industry composition can affect the types of jobs available, the wages they offer, and the opportunities for career advancement, all of which can impact an individual’s opportunities for upward job mobility.
In regions with a strong economy and high demand for skilled workers, employers may be willing to offer higher salaries or better benefits to attract and retain employees. This can create a more competitive environment in which employees are more likely to stay in their jobs and use their relatively high bargaining power to pursue higher wages or better working conditions in their company. In Germany, individuals who start their careers in a tight labour market enjoy higher wage growth than workers in more relaxed labor markets (Brunow et al. 2022
). Conversely, in regions with a weak economy or limited job opportunities, individuals may be motivated to change jobs due to dissatisfaction with their current position. However, due to the relatively low number of vacancies in these labour markets, it might be more challenging to find a new job with comparable wages and benefits and workers may be motivated to leave the region for a new job. This article therefore addresses the question of how regional opportunity structures affect the propensity for an income increase when changing jobs. Applying the theoretical and empirical considerations, better economic conditions are expected to increase the probability of job change with an increase in income.
A stronger economy with a higher number of vacancies constitutes a better economic opportunity structure for workers and is an indicator for rising wages. This makes job changes with an increase in income more likely than staying in the current position and job changes without an increase in income less likely than staying.
Job change and relocation. Kronenberg and Carree
) point out the close relation of job and residential mobility. In the U.S., around 16% of all recorded job-to-job moves between 2010 and 2016 were between employers located in different states (Azzopardi et al. 2020
). The two types of mobility can function as both complements and substitutes for each other. There is a need to differentiate between interfirm mobility not involving migration and job changes requiring the residential relocation of the employee and possible additional family members (Kronenberg and Carree 2012
). The availability of job opportunities in a particular region can be a key driver of job changes and relocations, but they have differing effects on job changes with and without residential mobility. While the presence of internal career opportunities impedes job changes, relocation is promoted by the existence of external options (Kronenberg and Carree 2012
). Symmetrically, a high unemployment rate indicating a lack of career opportunities motivates the tendency for joint job and residential mobility, especially of younger employees (Ganesch 2018
). Moreover, simultaneous job change and relocation is much more likely for workers living in small cities than for those living in large cities, but there is little wage premium associated with changing cities and thus workers gain little additional return from shifting locations (Coleman and Zheng 2020
; Kronenberg and Carree 2012
). However, workers moving longer distances tend to generally benefit from a sizeable earnings boost (Azzopardi et al. 2020
It is reasonable to assume that regional characteristics affect simultaneous job and residential mobility as structural factors can play a significant role in shaping the labour market conditions and quality of life factors that influence both job change and relocation decisions. Regions with strong labour markets and high demand for workers may offer more workplace security, making job changes and relocations less likely. Conversely, regions with weaker labour markets and limited job opportunities may be less attractive to individuals and thereby motivate workers to change jobs and relocate to pursue better career prospects. Other contextual factors can also play a significant role in joint job and regional mobility decisions. As mobility decisions potentially affect all members of the worker’s household, other factors aside from economic conditions can be expected to be of more importance. For example, limited housing availability may be unattractive to workers, making them more likely to relocate. In contrast, in regions with ample housing availability, individuals may be more hesitant to relocate, even if they are offered higher salaries or better job opportunities. This study therefore investigates how regional opportunity structures affect the propensity to change jobs and relocate at the same time. All four dimensions of regional opportunity structure affect the quality of life and the resources for individual wellbeing and the achievement of socio-economic outcomes. Thus, better opportunities in any of the dimensions are expected to make outmigration less likely than staying in the current place of living.
Better economic opportunities, better public and private services, better opportunities for community and civic engagement, and better natural and built environment make joint job and residential mobility less likely than staying in the current position and make job changes without relocations more likely than not changing jobs.