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Open Access Publication in the Spotlight (July) - 'Do households prefer to move up or down the urban hierarchy during an economic crisis?'  

Date:02 July 2021
Author:Open Access Team
Open access publication in the spotlight: July 2021
Open access publication in the spotlight: July 2021

Each month, the open access team of the University of Groningen Library (UB) puts a recent open access article by UG authors in the spotlight. This publication is highlighted via social media and the library’s newsletter and website.

The article in the spotlight for the month of July 2021 is titled Do households prefer to move up or down the urban hierarchy during an economic crisis?, written by Eveline van Leeuwen (Wageningen University) and Viktor Venhorst (from the Economic Geography department at the Faculty of Spatial Sciences). 


In this paper, we investigate the relationship between adverse economic circumstances and the desire of Dutch households to move up or down the urban hierarchy. We apply three consecutive waves of the Dutch Housing Demand Survey (WoON) in a repeated cross-section setting, with data collected at the time of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and its aftermath. We find that households desire to move down the urban hierarchy during the volatile and uncertain periods following the GFC. This is a surprising result, given that urban areas are generally considered more opportunity rich. In order to uncover the mechanisms driving this result, we considered the impact of the economic circumstances on the general willingness to move and on the underlying motives. We find that willingness to move increased when the adverse economic consequences of the GFC hit Dutch households. Further, it appears that this willingness to move is only partially related to work. Besides work, desires to move for health, education, vicinity to family and friends, and reasons related to the dwelling, also become more prevalent during the aftermath of the GFC as well. This heterogeneity in impacts and consequences for household desired mobility serves to explain some of the mixed results in the literature, and generates lessons for current and future crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic. 

We asked corresponding author Viktor Venhorst a few questions about the article:

This article was published open access, was open access a deliberate choice?

Yes. Or, to put it differently, open access publishing is now pretty much second nature in my field. But this is down for the most part to the generous financial arrangements that have been put in place with most main publishing houses. On top of that, after some teething problems, the workflow for authors is now very smooth as well. These measures really work. It's a no-brainer these days. In our field, we always cater to a mix of scientific and societal audiences, as topics concerning geography, demography, migration and housing markets are naturally close to policy and current societal issues. It is so much easier to cater to these needs if you can simply send a link to the original paper.  

The article mentions that you received funding from the EU's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. Did requirements of the funder also play a role in your choice to publish this article open access?

The work on this paper was indeed supported through the ERC project "Family Ties that bind: a new view of internal migration, immobility and labour market outcomes". ERC requires that papers are published open access. However, had this requirement not been in place, we would have published this paper open access anyway, as the arrangements are available. In geography and demography, we operate close to the practising field, and being able to share outputs directly is very helpful.

In your research you made use of pre-existing and openly available data: the Dutch WoON (Housing Demand Survey) dataset. How easy or complicated is it to use existing data like this dataset? And how important is the re-use of open data for your research and in your discipline?

My co-author, Eveline van Leeuwen, and I indeed decided to apply the openly available Dutch WoON dataset. First and foremost, as in any project, the choice of data is a matter of suitability. We found an exciting opportunity here to use the vast WoON dataset, but from a fresh angle. Generally speaking, in migration research, the focus is on actual, effectuated moves. The reasons are clear: migration desires are sometimes slightly "unrealistic" and on top of that many people indicate that they'd like to move but never really do. However, in this paper Eveline van Leeuwen and I argue that, in times of crisis, studying the dynamics in these desires might actually be preferable to looking at actual moves! Clearly, in such times (think economic hardship, uncertainty due to the pandemic, hugely overheated housing markets) it may very well be harder to effectuate a move: you'd expect to see an increasing discrepancy between wish and reality, and, worryingly, for some more than others. We find that in times of crisis the "willingness to move" indeed goes up. Furthermore, it does so for all sorts of motives: aside from work, people mention wanting to live closer to family and friends for example. These issues are easy to miss if one focuses on effectuated moves only. 

WoON allowed us to study all of this, covering an extended period of time. It would have been hard to collect such data at short notice, to cater to an acute demand for insights on this subject. To the credit of WoON: its broader scope has made it suitable for analyses that were not even on the radar before data collection started. In terms of secondary data use, that is the main challenge for the future.

In general, I do believe that there is a clear advantage, of course in terms of cost, but certainly also in terms of transparency and reproducibility, in using these sorts of openly available datasets. The difficulty is sometimes that data was collected for an altogether different purpose, making re-use in secondary applications more difficult. For example, many of my other studies build on Statistics Netherlands register data. Coverage is (near) perfect, but the data was never collected with the objective to do research (but, rather, collect taxes for example). However, this does not mean the data is of no use: more and more super creative applications are being found for these sorts of secondary data and it would be great if this could grow in the future. Such a trend would require much more attention to measurement and operationalisation, and continued careful consideration of added value (more data is not necessarily better and be aware of applications beyond your own project horizon). Elsewhere such initiatives are actively supported, for example the ERSC’s Secondary Data Analysis Initiative. It would be good to expand on these activities here as well. 

Could you reflect on your experiences with open access and open science in general?

In the past couple of years, I have really noticed that the process to open access publishing has become more and more streamlined. Agreements and procedures are in place, and even if you forget something, our UG Library colleagues will come chasing after you, which is very helpful. Up to recently, I did notice that some journals still needed to improve their open access workflow. For example, during final submission of an accepted paper, the option for  open access was provided but the journal's online process suggested they were going to send me a hefty invoice. That was slightly deterring given the amounts involved, and confusing because on our end I was informed open access fees were covered. I was advised to just go ahead and request open access and everything was sorted out later. My more recent experiences are that it is all rather more automated, which is great. 

Useful links:

University of Groningen Digital Competence Centre: supports your research throughout the entire research (data) life cycle, from grant proposal to FAIR data archiving.

DANS: the Dutch national centre of expertise and repository for research data.

Open access journal browser: search engine that can be used to check if a discount on the article processing charge (APC) is available for a specific journal. UG corresponding authors can publish with an APC discount (mostly 100%, so for free) in more than 12.000 journals! provides an overview of the open access deals and gives details about the workflow that the publishers use. : ask all your open access-related questions to the library’s open access team. 


Van Leeuwen, E. S., & Venhorst, V. A. (2021). Do households prefer to move up or down the urban hierarchy during an economic crisis? Journal of Geographical Systems, 23(2), 263–289. doi:10.1007/s10109-021-00353-7 

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About the author

Open Access Team
The Open Access team of the University of Groningen Library

Link: /openaccess