Norbert F. Schneider and Beate Collet (eds.): Mobile Living Across Europe II. Causes and Consequences of Job-Related Spatial Mobility in Cross-National Comparison. Opladen, Farmington Hills 2010. 365 pp.
This book collects the empirical findings of a cross-country EU funded research project on multiple types of job-related geographical mobility and their impact on individuals and family lives (Job Mobilities and Family Lives in Europe - Modern Mobile Living and its Relation to Quality of Life, co-ordinated by Norbert F. Schneider). The findings are based on a standardised survey in six European countries: Belgium, France, Germany, Poland, Spain and Switzerland. Descriptive findings from the international survey for each country were published separately in an initial volume in 2008.
In contrast, this second volume is intended to show commonalities and general mobility trends for all the countries together grouped by themes. In doing so, the authors seek to contribute to the understanding of the social structures of job-related geographical mobility as well as individuals' living and working conditions in Europe more generally. The EU project is in many respects the international representative version of an earlier study in Germany by Norbert F. Schneider (Schneider et al. 2002). However, those who expect to find out more about context dependence and country differences regarding individuals' geographical mobility behaviour will be disappointed since the authors do not consider national contexts and leave the question of country-specific factors to future research (p. 343). Although the authors claim to develop a 'truly transdisciplinary' approach in this research field (p. 337), the conceptual framework is dominated by a sociological point of view while geographical and economic literature is given little attention. This is particularly surprising with respect to the large body of literature both on family migration and tied migration which provide valuable insights into why families move or do not move. This results in somewhat confusing definitions from a geographical point of view. For example, residential mobility is referred to as internal migration while the term migration is used as a synonym for international migration; job mobility is interchangeably used with geographical mobility for job reasons.
The book encompasses 16 chapters. The first two chapters provide a brief introduction and explain the research design. The latter is focused on weighting measures; for a more general explanation of the research design the reader is referred to the first volume. The following 13 chapters are organised according to three topics: understanding mobilities, social structures and mobilities, and mobilities in private and professional life. In the last chapter Heather Hofmeister and Norbert F. Schneider seek to summarise key findings and to pinpoint policy implications, although here - like in the remaining part of the book in general - only few policy-oriented conclusions are drawn. Despite the promising approach to pooled findings for all investigated countries for a wide range of issues related to job-related geographical mobility (in contrast to separate country analyses presented in the first volume), this book is not convincing for a number of reasons.
Most of the chapters get lost in detail and fail to highlight key findings. Thus the reader has to rifle through enumerations of numbers drawn from descriptive statistics thereby facing the risk of being unable to follow the story the authors are trying to tell. In some chapters even multivariate results are documented through text rather than clearly laid out tables which makes reading difficult (e.g. chapter 13). Moreover, the chapters tend to go beyond a mere description of results far too rarely.
This book presents first and foremost empirical results drawn from the cross-country survey. Reference is made to theory and the literature review occasionally rather than systematically. Theoretical background is neither given in the introductory chapter nor is the presentation of empirical results theory-driven. This is also reflected in the fact that the current state of research in this field is not sufficiently revised.
Given the large cross-country sample, surprisingly large use is made of descriptive statistics. Meanwhile, multivariate analysis is dominated by correspondence analysis (e.g. chapter 5), i.e. a method which is hardly used in social sciences except from francophone countries. In contrast to regression models, this technique does not allow other factors to be controlled for. From this it follows that the present analyses provide only limited insights into the determinants of individuals' mobility behaviour. I would have expected that the authors discuss the limitations of their statistical analysis. This also applies to the weighting method which appears to be problematic to some extent (e.g. weighted data in multivariate analysis).
The book adds new value to the literature in that different types of geographical mobility for job reasons are taken into account, and then different mobile people are compared to spatially non-mobile people: recent interregional movers, daily long distance commuters, business travellers, people with a job-related secondary residence ('shuttlers'), and 'multi-mobile' people who combine different types of geographical mobility. However, most often no distinction between the investigated types of job-related geographical mobility is made in the analysis. Hence, the conceptually differentiated view on geographical mobility is poorly transferred to the empirical analysis in some chapters (e.g. chapter 3).
Overall, this book deals with currently relevant questions related to the rise of job-induced spatial mobility in Europe and the diversification of spatial mobility patterns coupled with it. It is targeted at sociologists rather than geographers or policy makers. Despite the shortcomings in terms of theory, analytical framework, statistical analysis and presentation of findings, it shows some interesting empirical results which contribute to the literature, for example the relations between migration biography and job-related mobility behaviour in late careers (chapter 8). Although context-dependent factors are not considered, this book points to some country differences in individuals' geographical mobility behaviour which are important for future research.