Residential relocations and academic performance of Australian children: A longitudinal analysis


  • Sergi Vidal Centre for Demographic Studies, CERCA – Centres de Recerca de Catalunya, Spain; and Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Children and Families Over the Life Course, Australia
  • Janeen Baxter Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Children and Families Over the Life Course (LCC)



Residential relocations, academic performance, longitudinal data, LSAC, Australia


The family and residential environments are critical to children’s wellbeing and, hence, residential change can affect children’s developmental outcomes. In this research, we study the associations between residential relocations and academic performance in the Australian context using panel regression methods on longitudinal data of a representative sample of 3,481 children born in the late 1990s from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC). We examine the impact of residential relocations from infancy to middle childhood and pay special attention to the distance, frequency and developmental age-stage of relocations on academic test scores from the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) of third, fifth and seventh graders. Consistent with previous research, we find that the associations between childhood relocations and school performance are generally small. Frequent relocations during childhood relate to poor academic performance, but the association vanishes after controlling for family and home circumstances. In contrast, moderate levels of residential mobility, particularly relocations towards a different local area, are associated with improvements in academic performance. Relocations around the time of school entry are associated with poorer academic performance in grade 3, but are not associated with performance in grades 5 and 7. Our findings suggest that while moving home is not per se a major determinant of academic performance, the contexts and environments where children are embedded matter. We conclude that further research is needed on what and how intersections between relocation biographies and contexts matter for children’s development.