The relationship between migration and age has long been established, and most recently, there have been calls for the inclusion of a life course perspective to migration research. In this paper, we explore Northern Ireland's internal migration patterns, and in particular, we test for the importance of urban to rural migration at different stages of the life course. Data from the Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study are used for the first time to analyse urban–rural migration patterns. The resulting modelling demonstrates unique aspects of urban to rural migration within Northern Ireland, which up until now have gone largely unreported.
Results from logistic regression modelling suggest that there is an age selectivity to urban–rural mobility but not necessarily at the life course stages predicted from a review of the life course migration literature. Individuals in younger age groups (at the household and family formation stages of the life course) are most likely to make an urban to rural move in Northern Ireland, with a decline in the likelihood of this move type with age. Possible explanations are offered linked to Northern Ireland's settlement hierarchy, rural planning policy, and family farming traditions. The findings challenge researchers to pay due attention to how migration processes may play out differently in varying geographical, social, and planning contexts and emphasise the importance of structural factors to explain migration patterns. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.