In this study, we add to the literature by investigating the role of welfare states in intra‐European migration decisions between 25 countries (2003‐2008). Distinguishing between three welfare programmes (unemployment, family and old‐age benefits) we tested whether social expenditure on each of these arrangements particularly influenced locational choices of individuals within the age groups covered by the respective welfare policy. Findings from a conditional logit model showed a positive impact of spending on family benefits on the locational choices of young adults moving together with children, and of spending on old‐age benefits on the locational choices of individuals close to or above retirement age. In contrast, a negative impact of unemployment spending was found on locational choices in general, and those of working‐age adults in particular. Our results highlight the importance of further disentangling the often‐used general welfare spending measure when studying the link between welfare and migration.