The Residential Patterns and Decision-Making of Polish Internal Migrants in Britain

Student thesis: Phd


It has been over a decade since the expansion of the European Union altered the international patterns of migration to Britain, which included a resurgence of Polish immigration. This significant population change provided an opportunity, which this thesis exploited, to advance understanding of contemporary, post-immigration internal migration decision-making and, particularly, how ethnicity is implicated in these processes. The thesis is grounded in 'facet methodology' and uses a mixed methods approach to the 2011 Census micro and origin-destination data, combined with forty-one semi-structured interviews carried out with Polish residents of Greater Manchester. The two types of data are combined throughout the analysis chapters to uncover different facets of Poles’ internal migration. Descriptive methods, geographic information systems, and thematic analysis are integrated to illuminate related patterns and processes. Collectively, the results show the freedoms and entitlements attached to a Poles' citizenships permitted many internal migration patterns. Notable examples include, first, underemployed Poles directly entering urban places once their qualifications and work-experience are recognised and language proficiency improved. Second, Polish families counter-urbanising as a result of their entry into secure social rented sector accommodation located outside of inner-city neighbourhoods. The thesis construes Poles' residential decision-making as embedded in a constellation of factors. The conceptual innovation is the centrality of ethnicity: its role in residential experience is examined in relation to other factors influencing migration and these include economic factors as well as intimate relationships. The emphasis on Poles' new migrant white identity challenged and disturbed our understanding of the position of new migrants' whiteness, and provided evidence about how constructions of Polish whiteness and its role in decision-making are mutually constituted by structures in the labour and housing markets. Theoretically, the thesis finds that Polish people’s internal migration decisions are composed of factors at different geographical scales (international, intra-EU and local) and moves away from viewing internal migration decisions as wholly made up of factors at a local level. From a policy standpoint, the specific period effect of a turbulent time of austerity that Poles have encountered in Greater Manchester has implications for recommendations for national and local labour and housing market and community cohesion policies. These recommendations include improving the regulation of recruitment agencies' practices that tie in a migrants' employment status with their housing. Additionally, for policy-makers to better acknowledge that Polish migrants' white identities can also be racialized and lead to discrimination that can affect the places they feel comfortable moving to. However, this can shape the strategies that migrants deploy to fit into their neighbourhoods and influence their future residential decisions. Finally, the findings support developing policy to better assist Polish family migrants whose subnational level moves might be linked to intimate relationships with other family members who are spatially located across different EU countries.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMark Brown (Supervisor), James Rhodes (Supervisor) & Kyriaki Lymperopoulou (Supervisor)


  • Polish
  • Internal Migration
  • Residential Decision-Making
  • Ethnicity
  • Whiteness

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