Thursday, July 13, 2006

Staying put promotes information absorption.

If you move around a lot, consultants and jetsetters aside, your socioeconomic status likely precludes you from having much free time to stop and smell the airwaves.

It is no accident that big thinkers typically do so in positions of relative leisure and stability. Even those who are employed: Einstein was a patent clerk--not exactly back-breaking work (unless the chair upon which he sat happened to not be ergonomically correct; there are no biographic reports of lumbago to undermine this theory).

Not too many breakthroughs were first conjured in a coal mine.


The Social Science Journal
Volume 43, Issue 2 , 2006
Pages 227-238

Length of residence and media usage

Robert H. Freymeyer

Department of Sociology, Presbyterian College, Clinton, SC 29325, USA

Available online 31 March 2006.


This article uses data from the 2002 National Election Survey to investigate the relationship between length of residence and media use to consider whether recent movers might use the media as a source of information about their new communities. Results show that frequency of watching national news, watching local news, and reading a newspaper increases with length of residence. Additionally, respondents’ community involvement and sociodemographic characteristics influence these relationships. Older individuals who have more community interest and live in a place longer make greater use of available media. Better-educated individuals also read the paper more, but watch local news less. Thus, it seems, residentially mobile individuals tend not to use the media for information to aid their adjustment.

Article Outline

1. Statement of the problem
2. Data and methods
3. Plan of analysis
4. Analysis and findings
5. Conclusions

Residential mobility involves changing not just locations, but also social environments. These changes have a disruptive effect on many movers. Customs and norms appropriate in their place of origin no longer seem appropriate in their destination. Movers must learn about the ways of their new community. They need reliable information about conditions and opportunities in their new home. Media serve as one potential source of this information. Yet, although migrants need media for the information they provide, media use increases with community involvement, and community involvement increases over time. Longer-term residents, therefore, might be expected to use media more because of their greater community involvement. These competing forces suggest different predictions about the relationship between length of residence and media use. If recent migrants use the media as an information source, then media use should be higher for shorter-term residents. If, however, community involvement and interest shape media use, then media use should be inversely related to length of residence. This paper explores these competing views of media use.
1. Statement of the problem

Migration reduces friendship, kinship, and other associational ties (Kasarda & Janowitz, 1974; Sampson, 1988), as well as the influence that communities have on their residents’ attitudes and actions (Lee, Oropesa, & Kanan, 1994). Young people, in particular, frequently break family ties upon moving and develop ties to more impersonal secondary groups (Brown, 1988). Media, particularly local media, can assist new residents in connecting with new community institutions (Brown, 1988; Katz, Blumler, & Gurevitch, 1974; Rumbaut, 1997; Shah, McLeod, & Yoon, 2001; Walker, 1999). The “uses and gratifications” approach to the study of media suggests that media are one resource that individuals use “to get information or advice for daily living, to provide a framework for one's day, [and] to prepare oneself culturally for the demands of upward mobility” (Katz et al., 1974, p. 20). Local newspapers, for instance, provide relatively comprehensive coverage of events occurring within a community. In fact, organizers of many public events want media to publicize their events (Oliver & Myers, 1999). Furthermore, local media aid in job placement and economic success (Putnam, 1995). Migrants interested in adapting to their new communities seem likely to use the media to aid this process.

Park (1929), one of the first sociologists to suggest media's integrative function, found people who read newspapers belonged to more community organizations. Newspapers replaced interpersonal, primary channels of communication that had operated in earlier, smaller communities. They transmitted important information, particularly for better-educated newcomers to aid assimilation.

Lazerfeld and Stanton (1949) changed the focus of media studies to a concern with “the gratifications that the mass media provide their audience” (Katz et al., 1974, p. 20). Walker (1999), building on earlier works, developed the informational approach to media studies emphasizing that audiences utilize media as an informational source to aid assimilation. Walker's work focused on immigrants who used information provided by media for successful adaptation. He examined Haitian immigrants living in Miami in the early 1990s. These immigrants had language and ethnic barriers greater than those faced by most internal migrants; yet, migrants who successfully assimilated used local media more.

Not all media have the same impacts on integration. “The uses and gratifications approach … assumes that uses of the media depend upon the sociological milieu of the audience: the structure of groups and context in which the audience is situated” (Carey & Kreiling, 1974, p. 227). Walker (1999), for example, found that both ethnic media and English-language media provided information for Haitian immigrants; however, those using English-language media, typically the better educated, had more success learning about their new culture and adapting to it. Furthermore, Baker (2000) reported the presence of Spanish media did not influence immigrants’ intention to seek naturalization. Listening to talk radio also had little bearing on political participation (Norris, 1996). So too in Britain, media had different impacts. Newton (1999) found that reading broadsheets had more influence on political mobilization than reading tabloids. Migrants likely use media that facilitate adaptation more than they use media that are less informative.

Of all media, television's impact on information transmittal/integration, perhaps, has been most debated. Much of recent debate grew out of Putnam, 1995 and Putnam, 2000. Putnam argued that increased television watching decreased social capital, defined as “features of social organization such as networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit” (1995, p. 75). Similarly, Rumbaut (1997) suggested that television viewing had particularly harmful effects on immigrants’ children. These children's educational preferences and aspirations suffered from television watching.

Not all researchers have agreed that television has decreased social capital. In fact, Norris (2002), using data from the World Values Survey, found that countries with greater access to television had more social capital and social trust. Others have argued that the type of television watched, not amount, determined whether media's influence was positive. Uses and gratifications studies, for example, have found that seeking out information motivated individuals to watch the news (Poindexter & Conway, 2003). Additionally, watching news programs, particularly local broadcast news, positively related to community participation (Norris, 1996 and Shah et al., 2001). Watching public affairs programs also contributed to higher levels of social capital (Cappella, 2002). These types of shows should prove more useful to recent migrants seeking to learn about their new communities.

Newcomers, while they need information, may not have the necessary ties to their new community “to pay close attention to local issues in their daily newspapers and local broadcasts” (McLeod et al., 1996, p. 200). Migration disrupts involvement in many institutions and organizations (Putnam, 1995; Welch & Baltzell, 1984). Migration contributes, for example, to lower rates of political participation (Brown, 1988) and leads to more political independence (Gober, 1993). Migration also reduces religious participation (Bibby, 1997 and Finke, 1989; Wuthnow & Christiano, 1979). Furthermore, migration may disrupt media use, in spite of media's potential benefits.

Media have information useful for migrants. If migrants use media as a source of information, media usage should be higher for those who have recently moved. Movers, however, may not have enough involvement in their new community to recognize the value of media, particularly local media. Migration reduces social and political ties and newspaper readership (Poindexter & Conway, 2003). These reductions could lead to lower rates of use of all media among recent migrants. The first step of this research considers the relationship between length of residence and media use with data from the 2002 National Election Study.

Media's content and type also influence their use (Poindexter & Conway, 2003). Local newspapers and television news may provide more beneficial information to migrants than other media such as radio or television situation comedies (Kern, 1997 and Norris, 1996). This research considers three different kinds of media: newspaper reading, watching local television news, and watching national television news.1 “Newspapers and local broadcast news actively work to develop a local identity” (Shah et al., 2001, p. 471). Reading a local newspaper or watching local television news should have more potential benefits for newcomers to a community than watching national news (Oliver & Myers, 1999), although in times of crisis all television becomes important (Poindexter & Conway, 2003).

Two competing views are being proposed about the relationship between length of residence and media use. One view suggests recent movers have high levels of media use; they seek out information provided by media to become more involved. The second perspective argues that long-term residents use the media more since they have greater community involvement and this involvement stimulates media use. Much as the uses and gratifications model of mass communication suggests, context of the audience plays a role in media use (Carey & Kreiling, 1974); thus the need to examine community involvement's influence on media use. The second stage of this research examines how community involvement influences the relationship between length of residence and media use.

Education and related factors such as social class, income, and age also impact the use of various media (Peiser, 2000; Poindexter & Conway, 2003; Shah et al., 2001). For example, those who read a newspaper tend to be older, white, more affluent, and well educated, with education being the most important correlate even accounting for most of the racial difference (Norris, 1996, Stevenson, 1994 and Stone, 1994). Age has more influence on television news watching than does education: older individuals watch television news more. Many of these same sociodemographic factors affect migration (Weeks, 2002). The third stage of analysis introduces controls for relevant sociodemographic variables. Even with controls, Norris (1996) found that newspaper readership related to most measures of activism, although the relationships between some measures of activism and watching television news declined with controls.
2. Data and methods

Data for this study come from the 2002 American National Election Survey (NES). The Center for Political Studies of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan conducted the NES, under the general direction of Principal Investigators Burns and Kinder (2003). The 2002 NES sample consisted of 1807 respondents previously interviewed in the 2000 NES plus 921 new cases selected by random digit dialing. These respondents were contacted first in the six weeks before the 2002 November election. About 55% (N = 1,511) completed this pre-election interview. Respondents were re-interviewed in a post-election study during the month after the election. About 49% (N = 1,346) of the sample completed this interview. All interviews were conducted by telephone, and the sample was designed to be representative of the voting-aged population.

The NES asked respondents how long they had lived in the present community. Respondents reporting less than one year were coded as 0; those reporting between 13 and 18 months ago received a value of 1 (year), and those answering between 19 and 24 months were coded as 2, as well as those reporting two years. About 10% of the respondents reported they had lived in their current community all their life. These responses were assigned a value equal to the respondent's age. This measure has the reliability problems of any measure requiring memory of a past event. Perhaps, moving to a new place was a significant enough event that memory was reliable or that a verifiable record existed of the move date.

The NES also includes three measures of media use: (1) “How many days in the past week did you watch the national news on TV?” (2) “How many days in the past week did you watch the local TV news shows, either in the late afternoon or early-evening?” (3) “How many days in the past week did you read a daily newspaper?” These three measures allow for explicit comparison of the use of national news (e.g., question 1) with use of local news (e.g., questions 2 and 3). These measures also permit comparison between the print and broadcast media. Those using local print media would seem to have made the greatest attempt to obtain information about their new residence, but their reading may have been restricted by their transition to a new community or by low education.

As a measure of community involvement, the following question is used: “During the past 12 months, have you worked with other people to deal with some issue facing your community?”

The sociodemographic controls reflect factors related to media usage and residential mobility. Included are home ownership (0 = no, 1 = yes), marital status (0 = not married, 1 = married), age (in years), education (in seven categories), and race (0 = nonwhite, 1 = white).
3. Plan of analysis

The analysis considers whether recent movers made greater use of media than long-term residents to determine whether the relationship varied between media. Table 1 presents means and standard deviations for all variables. Table 2 reports bivariate correlations between all variables.

Table 1.

Means, standard deviations, minimum, and maximum for all variables
Mean Standard deviation Minimum Maximum
National news 3.75 2.73 0 7
Local news 3.91 2.66 0 7
Read newspaper 3.65 2.88 0 7
Length in community 21.96 19.00 0 90
Community involvementa 0.39 0.49 0 1
Own homeb 0.79 0.40 0 1
Marriedc 0.60 0.49 0 1
Educationd 4.51 1.58 1 7
Age 50.52 15.96 18 95
Racee 0.80 0.40 0 1

N = 1,212.
a Community involvement, 0 = no, 1 = yes.
b Own home, 0 = no, 1 = yes.
c Married, 0 = no, 1 = yes.
d Education, 1 = 8 grades or less, 2 = 9–11 grades, 3 = high school diploma, 4 = more than 12 years, no higher degree, 5 = junior or community level degree, 6 = BA degree, 7 = advanced degree.
e Race, 0 = nonwhite, 1 = white.

Table 2.

Correlation matrix for all variables
National news Local news Read paper Length in community Community involvement Own home Married Education Age Race
National news 1.00*
Local news 0.53* 1.00*
Read paper 0.19* 0.14* 1.00*
Length in community 0.19* 0.20* 0.20* 1.00*
Community involvementa 0.04 0.01 0.07* −0.04 1.00*
Own homeb 0.02 0.02 0.10* 0.11* 0.04 1.00*
Marriedc −0.04 −0.01 0.02 −0.02 0.06* 0.30* 1.00*
Educationd −0.03 −0.14* 0.14* −0.18* 0.23* 0.11* 0.10* 1.00*
Age 0.39* 0.25* 0.30* 0.49* −0.06* 0.17* −0.04 −0.10* 1.00*
Racee −0.02 −0.06* 0.11* 0.04 −0.05 0.16* 0.10* 0.07* 0.10* 1.00*
a Community involvement, 0 = no, 1 = yes.
b Own home, 0 = no, 1 = yes.
c Married, 0 = no, 1 = yes.
d Education, 1 = 8 grades or less, 2 = 9–11 grades, 3 = high school diploma, 4 = more than 12 years, no higher degree, 5 = junior or community level degree, 6 = BA degree, 7 = advanced degree.
e Race, 0 = nonwhite, 1 = white.
* p < .05.

For each of the three media types (watched local television news, watched national television news, and read the newspaper), Model I considers the bivariate relationships between length of residence and media use. Model II introduces community involvement into the equation. Model III also includes controls for several sociodemographic variables.

Measures of media use asked the number of days in the past week that media had been used. Number of days is a count variable. Using linear regression models “for count outcomes can result in inefficient, inconsistent, and biased estimates” (Long, 1997); therefore, negative binominal regression analysis is used for this analysis. The Likelihood Ratio test for dispersion indicates that negative binominal regression is preferred to the Poisson regression model (also used for count variables) for all three models considered. For every variable in each model, odds ratios (factor change values) are reported. These values indicate the factor the expected count in media use changes for a unit change in the independent variable, holding all other variables constant (Long, 1997). Also reported on the bottom line of Table 3 are discrete change values that indicate how much predicted media use would change between someone who has just moved (minimum) and someone who has lived in the city all of his/her life (maximum), if all other variables are at their means.

Table 3.

Odds ratios from negative binomial regression analysis of media usage
National news Local news Read paper
Model I Model II Model III Model I Model II Model III Model I Model II Model III
Length in community 1.007* 1.007* 1.000 1.007* 1.007* 1.003* 1.008* 1.008* 1.004*
Community involvementa 1.072 1.110* 1.028 1.076 1.142* 1.112*
Own homeb 0.926 0.982 1.017
Marriedc 1.009 1.029 1.014
Educationd 1.003 0.954* 1.088*
Age 1.020* 1.009* 1.014*
Racee 0.901 0.887* 1.177*
Constant 1.166 1.138 0.386 1.207 1.196 1.092 1.108 1.051 −0.088
Predicted change from min → maxf 2.66 2.69 −0.14 2.78 2.80 0.98 3.19 3.26 1.34
a Community involvement, 0 = no, 1 = yes.
b Own home, 0 = no, 1 = yes.
c Married, 0 = no, 1 = yes.
d Education, 1 = 8 grades or less, 2 = 9–11 grades, 3 = high school diploma, 4 = more than 12 years, no higher degree, 5 = junior or community level degree, 6 = BA degree, 7 = advanced degree.
e Race, 0 = nonwhite, 1 = white.
f Average absolute change in use of media type (in days) between those who have just moved to an area and those who have lived in their city the longest, holding other variables at their mean.
* Significant, p < .05.

4. Analysis and findings

Results from Model I show that media use increases with length of residence for watching national news, watching local news, and reading a newspaper (see Table 3). Each yearly increase in length of residence slightly increases the odds of media use. Living in a community an additional year increases the odds of watching the national news by a factor of .007, of watching the local news by a factor of .007, and of reading a newspaper by a factor of .008 (all statistically significant). While these probabilities are small, over a period of years media use could increase substantially. These media do not seem to function to aid recent movers’ assimilation.

To examine potential change over time, discrete change values are calculated (last row of Table 3). These values show the average absolute change between those who have just moved to an area and those who have lived in their community the longest. Results again show that life-long residents use each of the three types of media more than those who have just moved. Living in the same city all of one's life as compared to just moving there, increases expected national news watching on average by 2.7 days, expected local news watching by 2.8 days, and expected newspaper reading by 3.2 days. Length of residence has the greatest impact on newspaper reading. Moving reduces newspaper reading more than broadcast media watching.

Model II adds community involvement to the analysis. Adding this variable does not alter the relationship between length of residence and media use for any of the media examined: usage still increases with longer residence. Yet, community involvement has different impacts on broadcast and print media. It does not relate to the amount of television news watched (net of other factors). Being involved in the community does, however, have a significant relationship with newspaper reading: those involved are 14% more likely to read the paper than those not involved.

The addition of community involvement to the model actually increases the range of average expected values slightly. Expected differences in media use between recent movers and life-long community residents are slightly under three for watching the television news (2.69 for national news and 2.80 for local news). For reading the newspaper, expected differences are 3.26 days between those who have just moved and those who have never moved. Regardless of whether one is involved in his/her community or not, residential mobility reduces chances of media use. Movers do not use the media as much as long-term residents, and the expected differences are greater for print media than broadcast media. Furthermore, media use does not depend on community involvement, as measured in this study. Length of residence has an independent impact on likelihood of media use.

Model III includes the following additional variables: home ownership, marital status, education, age, and race. With the introduction of these controls, the original relationship between length of residence and media use becomes insignificant for national news watching and is reduced for watching the local news and reading the paper. Furthermore, the discrete change values for all media are reduced substantially. Length of residence influences media use partially because of the types of people who move and who watch news and read papers, but length of residence still has an independent impact on watching local television news and reading the newspaper. These two media consciously focus on local issues, and length of residence influences their use. National news watching, however, is shaped more by age. With the sociodemographic controls in the model, national news watching also is influenced by community involvement. Older people who are involved in their community watch the national news more; their time of residence in the community does not significantly influence their national news watching.

Of the sociodemographic variables, age plays a particularly important role. It is significantly related to all three media types. Older respondents live in a community longer, and they have greater odds of using media. Education also relates to local news watching and reading the newspaper. Better-educated individuals read the paper more, but watch local news less. Use of these two media is also influenced by race. Nonwhites are more likely to watch local news, but less likely to read the newspaper, contrary to what Stone (1994) reported earlier. Neither home ownership nor marital status, both possible indicators of community ties, has a significant relationship with any media type. Movers, in general, do not take advantage of information provided by the media; rather media use increases with age and length of residence.
5. Conclusions

Individuals use the media for many different purposes and receive many gratifications from this use (Katz et al., 1974). People moving into a new community would seem likely to benefit from information provided by media, especially local media, to aid in their adjustment. Current findings suggest, however, at the beginning of the 21st century, movers are not taking advantage of this opportunity. Neither the bivariate, nor the multivariate analysis, suggests that recent movers use media to gain information about their new communities. Residentially mobile individuals read the newspaper and watch local and national news less frequently than long-term residents. Furthermore, these relationships remain even after controlling for community involvement and other sociodemographic variables. Residential mobility rather than facilitating the use of media, restricts their usage.

Using the local media may help in assimilation (Walker, 1999) and in increasing social capital (Norris, 2002), but migrants, in general, do not take advantage of these opportunities. Perhaps local newspapers and television stations could make greater efforts to market to those who have recently moved. Media might also be proactive in helping establish ties (both local and national) required for community interest and media use. These community ties may be a prerequisite for paying attention to local media (Stamm, Emig, & Hesse, 1997). Increasing exposure to local newscasts and increased paper reading over time may also suggest that destinations impact migrants, perhaps leading them to become more like those already there.

Variations exist between the different types of media studied. Length of residence has more influence on the more locally oriented media (i.e., newspaper and local news), than it has on the national media. Living in the community longer increases the odds of using local media. So too, community involvement increases the likelihood of reading the newspaper; yet, community involvement does not influence the amount of local television news watching and actually increases the probability of watching national news. Clearly broadcast and print media differ, as do local and national broadcast media.

Media use and the gratifications derived from the media also depend upon an individual's social conditions (Carey & Kreiling, 1974), even if the residentially mobile are not using them as might seem constructive. Part of the reason why residentially mobile individuals do not use the media is because of their age. Younger people are more likely to move (Weeks, 2002) and as current results further document, are less likely to use the media (Peiser, 2000; Poindexter & Conway, 2003; Stevenson, 1994 and Stone, 1994). Older people read the paper and listen to national and local news more than younger people. Older individuals could have more time for media or they could have more ties to the community. Community involvement does increase newspaper reading and, with controls, increases national news watching.

Diverse people use different media differently. Age has a strong influence on television news watching (Stevenson, 1994) while education exerts more influence on newspaper reading. Education has a positive influence on newspaper reading while not being significantly related to watching national news. Lower educated individuals do, however, have a tendency to watch local news more than higher educated people. “The newspaper remains the medium of the educated individual” (Stevenson, 1994, p. 29), even in 2002.

Current findings also show a race effect on newspaper reading, contrary to earlier findings from a study of Memphis (Stone, 1994). Being white greatly increases the probability of reading a newspaper in this national sample. It also decreases likelihood of watching the local news.

This study documents that having recently moved to a community decreases the odds of using the media. This finding suggests that media are not functioning to provide information to aid in movers’ assimilation. Findings also show that age, education, race, and community involvement continue to influence the likelihood of using some media. Further studies need to investigate the changing nature of the influence of these factors, particularly race, on the uses and gratifications of the media.


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