A London exodus? But wait, isn’t the population growing?

M25 near HeathrowThe “exodus” of Londoners to provincial pastures new is a familiar story and it received further validation with the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics. The ONS gathers data on how people move across the regions of England and Wales, and London was the clear loser.

In 2014 nearly 273,000 people headed out of the capital while 204,000 arrived, a net reduction of nearly 70,000. But at the same time the population of London grew by 487,000 meaning London alone accounted for nearly half the population rise of the UK, as previously reported by Urbs.

So if there are so many people leaving that it is considered by some to be an exodus is the population simply growing because those left behind are having more babies? Well yes, but as usual, it’s a little more complex than that. So to help understand the picture more fully Urbs looked at a number of pieces of data.

London loses more people to other areas than any other region of England and Wales. Last year the only other areas that had a net reduction in people moving to or from other parts of the country were Yorkshire, the North West of England and the West Midland.

exodus 1

When those figures are expressed in terms of people per 1,000 head of population the difference between London and the rest of the country is very clear, and it appears that many are boosting the population of the South West.

exodus 2

This movement out of London to elsewhere in the country is an established lifecycle pattern documented by the ONS. Many young Londoners leave the city for higher education; many more arrive looking for jobs after graduation. People then move out in their 30s and 40s when they’ve had children.

This behaviour affects the demographic profile which leads to a growing population. Tower Hamlets, for example, had net outward migration but it also has the youngest age profile of the boroughs in the capital with an average age of just 31, as reported here.

So more babies yes, and people are living longer. London has a lower proportion of over 65s than the UK but the city has seen some of the highest rises in life expectancy among men, and women in London have the longest life expectancy in the UK.

The other big factor that the “exodus” idea does not account for is people from overseas. London is a truly multi-national city and last year half of all new Londoners, 244,000 people, were born outside the UK. As the ONS has recognised: “London is also the most common region of first residence for international migrants to the UK and some of these may later move to other regions, potentially also with children.” In other words, they do the same as many of the rest of us.

This story would not be complete without the well-worn quote from Dr Johnson of “when a man is tired of London he is tired of life.” While many are getting tired it would appear that many more have what Iggy Pop called a Lust for Life….in London.

Migrations data

Population data

Life expectancy data

See also

London drives UK population growth

Younger workforce makes capital’s population pensioner poor

Go east young man – it’s where young London lives

Women in London will live longer than anywhere in the UK