Disruption and stability: A study of the effects of inter-community mobility on political participation

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Kristi J. Andersen


Nonprofits, Civic life, Participation, Community, Mobility, Voting

Subject Categories

Political Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences


How does moving to another community affect political participation? This project has pursued a thorough examination of the most common answer to this question, which is that moving to another community has a negative effect on political participation, because when individuals move they experience negative changes in factors that are important for their political participation. The factors that are directly affected by moving are: resources, social networks, mobilization efforts, registration status and membership in civic organizations. Using a combination of data from the American National Election Studies, the Current Population Survey and the Citizenship, Involvement and Democracy Survey, I examine the factors that affect the political participation of movers, including their socio-demographic characteristics and the characteristics of their community of destination.

The results show support for the argument that moving is associated with negative changes in factors that are relevant for political participation, specifically registration status and membership in civic organizations. However, this association is very weak, and its effect on the overall political participation of individuals is very weak as well.

In this project, I also argue that civic organizations in a community play a critical role in minimizing the negative effects of moving because these organizations provide movers with opportunities to become members of an organization, to develop social networks, to become registered to vote and to become targets of political mobilization. The results of several logistic regression models support these claims, and show that individuals are more likely to be members of a civic organization, to develop new social networks, to register to vote and to become targets of political mobilization in communities with a higher relative presence of civic organizations than in communities with lower relative presence of these organizations. As a result, movers who relocated to these communities report higher levels of stability in their participation after moving than movers who relocated to communities with lower levels of civic life. Although not statistically significant, the political participation of movers benefited differentially from these opportunities.

The results of this project also support the idea that the effects of moving on political participation are moderated by the characteristics exhibited by individuals before they move. According to the data, a higher percentage of movers than non-movers were not targets of direct political mobilization, were not registered to vote and were not members of an organization prior to moving. A higher percentage of movers than nonmovers also belonged to groups that have been known for their low levels of turnout such as renters and young adults. Consequently, individuals who moved between 2000 and 2004 were not further deprived of politically relevant factors by virtue of their move, because they were already deprived of these factors prior to their decision to move.


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