Method: We used data from the FFCW (Fragile Families and Children Wellbeing) study. The sample disproportionately samples of births to non-married parents, resulting in a disadvantaged sample of families. FFCW families were interviewed at the birth of the focal child and when the child reached ages 1, 3, 5, 9 and 15. We kept those who had at least three observation of mobility throughout five waves, and deleted those who had missing on covariates (N=3,855). The measure of residential mobility (from ages 1 to 15) was a continuous item that counted how many moves since last interview occurred. Measure of time was coded as a year 1, 3, 5, 9, and 15 which then was recoded as 0, 2, 4, 8, and 14. Hierarchical Linear Modeling using time as the second level of analysis was used. All time-invariant covariates from birth were included to predict initial levels of mobility. We aimed to estimate the full association between time and mobility as well as the interaction effect of time and race after adjusting for initial characteristics.
Results: Our results indicated that between years 1 and 15, by each year, the number of moves increased by .03. A negative correlation between intercept and slope (r = - .20) shows those who started with high mobility tended to have a small rate of increase. Overall, Blacks (B = - .218) and Hispanics (B= -.10) had lower mobility at year 1 compared to Whites, controlling for covariates at birth. However, the rate of change among Blacks (B=.06) was higher than Whites significantly (B=.03, p < .001). Teenage birth (B= .22, p <.001), poor maternal health (B= .10, p <.01), paternal jail (B= .16, p<.01), not married to baby’s father (B=.09, p<.001), substance use (B=.25, p<.001), rental housing (B= .29) was associated with higher intercept at year 1, while living in public housing (B=-.12, p<.01), was associated with lower mobility at year 1.
Conclusions and implications: Among low-income families, residential mobility increase until middle childhood. Especially, although Blacks and Hispanics had a lower initial level of mobility compared to Whites, Blacks’ rate of change in mobility was significantly higher than Whites. Other hardships that change across time might also explain the high growing trend of mobility among Blacks. As frequent moves are detrimental for children as well as for adolescents, housing policies and programs should also be targeted to Blacks who might have more unstable housing situations. Lastly, more studies are needed to examine why Blacks move more as child ages, as well as where the moves take place.