– Where do university workers live?

Region of residence within Melbourne of university workers (%)

I’ve said before that there isn’t one ‘Melbourne’ – there are multiple ‘Melbournes’. The home range of Melburnians is pretty restricted – the great bulk of their travel is made within a region defined by their home municipality and contiguous municipalities. Many suburbanites rarely visit the city centre, much less the other side of town.

This pattern of sub-regionalisation is illustrated by Melbourne’s three major universities. I posted on March 16th about the mode shares of work trips to these universities. To summarise, at the time of the 2006 Census, 41% of Melbourne University staff drove to work while over 80% of staff at Monash and La Trobe Universities commuted by car.

The accompanying charts look at something else – where university workers lived in 2006. They show a number of interesting things.

The first chart indicates that staff of these three universities don’t tend to live west of the Maribyrnong. The west has 17% of Melbourne’s population but houses only 8% of Melbourne University’s staff. The ring road provides good accessibility from La Trobe to the west but even so, only 3% of the university’s staff live there.

Second, Monash and La Trobe serve distinct regional markets, in the north and south (of the Yarra) respectively. Melbourne University has a more metropolitan ambit but it still has a sub-regional focus – its staff strongly favour the inner city and the inner northern suburbs.

Third, university staff like to live close to their employer. This is particularly evident with La Trobe, where 56% of staff reside within the four municipalities closest to the university i.e. Darebin, Banyule, Nillumbik and Whittlesea (see second chart).

Municipality of residence within Melbourne of university workers (%)

Although not as emphatic, there’s a similar pattern at Melbourne University. The four most popular municipalities for staff to live in are in the inner city and inner suburbs. The cities of Melbourne, Moreland, Yarra and Boroondara together house 43% of the university’s staff. Similarly, the relatively close municipalities of Monash, Glen Eira, Casey and Whitehorse house 42% of Monash’s workers.

Fourth, some staff choose to live in the inner city and commute. Despite the difference in distance from the city centre (La Trobe is 12 km and Monash is 18 km), both suburban universities have the same proportion of workers living in the inner city. It’s probable that some specialised university staff have only a limited number of places where they can work and even fewer places where they’re prepared to live, necessitating a reasonably long commute (this illustrates a commonly observed regularity – commute distances to more specialised jobs are, on average, longer than other trips).

It’s important to emphasise that these figures relate to workers, not students. I have seen data on the residential addresses of students attending one of the suburban universities. It shows they are less clustered around the university than staff (but still show a strong spatial bias toward it) and are more than twice as likely to live in the inner city. This might be because the suburbs don’t offer the same lifestyle advantages for students as the inner city.

The pattern of sub-regional catchments of universities reinforces the reality that there are multiple ‘Melbournes’. To a large extent this will be captured by a fixed pattern of regions, such as ‘the inner east’ and ‘the outer east’. It is worth keeping in mind however that the ‘home range’ of each resident will centre on where they live. Thus a resident of the municipality of Darebin (say) is likely, on average, to have a home range – or a ‘Melbourne’ – that extends somewhat less toward the east and somewhat more toward the west than (say) a resident of contiguous Banyule. Thus there are in reality many ‘Melbournes’.

3 Comments on “– Where do university workers live?”

  1. anne beaumont says:

    I would be interested to see a similar analysis for RMIT – and possibly Swinburne. These are slightly different in that as well as being universities they include a TAFE component which may well affect where staff live.

  2. Q.Maisie says:

    Very interesting Alan. As a CBD worker it has taken me by surprise on occasion to meet people in middle ring Melbourne who NEVER go into the city. Melbourne (as in the CBD) doesn’t even enter into their thinking. It is irrelevant. BUT other than the unis, do the ‘other Melbourne’s’ have centres? Is there a job/social hub within them?

    • Alan Davies says:

      There’s a pretty dense network of Principal and Major activity centres across Melbourne so the vast bulk of households are within a reasonable driving distance of a large centre. Less dense on the fringe, but travel times probably no worse. Then there are neighbourhood centres and something like 800-900 “urban villages”.

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