People who live in place of birth more likely to have supported Brexit

Our results show the need to spread opportunity more widely across the country.
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People who live in their county of birth were seven per cent more likely to have supported Brexit than those who have moved away, even when other factors such as education and values are taken into account, according to a new study from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

But such immobility or local-rootedness only matters when the area they live in has experienced local change such as increased migration or economic decline. This suggests that the Brexit vote was, in part, a backlash from locally-rooted people unhappy about changes in their area.

The study, published today (4 January) in the Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, is based on data from an early access version of the Understanding Society survey and is the first to explore whether geographical immobility was an important factor in the EU Referendum vote.

Dr Neil Lee, an Associate Professor in Economic Geography in the Department of Geography and Environment at LSE and affiliate of the International Inequalities Institute said:

“A common argument about Brexit is that it pitted geographically-mobile remain supporters against locally-rooted individuals who supported Brexit. Our results suggest this is only partially true, and that the Brexit vote was a response by those who have not moved to changes in their local area.”

Katy Morris, a co-author of the paper and a PhD student at the European University Institute, Florence, added:

“Someone born and living in somewhere like Merthyr Tydfil in Glamorgan, which has experienced weak wage growth since the recession, was more likely to support Brexit than someone born and still living in Oxfordshire, where the economy has performed better. Our results show the need to spread opportunity more widely across the country.”

To view the study, please visit the Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society website.

Behind the article

For more information or interview requests with Dr Neil Lee, please contact and 07779 249 283

The Understanding Society survey (also known as the UK Household Longitudinal Study) is a household panel survey. The research uses data on the birthplaces and places or residence of around 6,000 people.

Where possible, all adult (age 16 or above) members of Understanding Society households are interviewed every year. In wave 8 of the study, Understanding Society respondents were asked the same question that was posed in the UK referendum on EU membership that took place on 23 June 2016: ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?’ The answer to this is the dependent variable in this study.

The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) studies the social sciences in their broadest sense, with an academic profile spanning a wide range of disciplines, from economics, politics and law, to sociology, information systems and accounting and finance. The School has an outstanding reputation for academic excellence and is one of the most international universities in the world. Its study of social, economic and political problems focuses on the different perspectives and experiences of most countries. From its foundation LSE has aimed to be a laboratory of the social sciences, a place where ideas are developed, analysed, evaluated and disseminated around the globe. Visit for more information