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The Effect of Expected Income on Individual Migration Decisions

  • John Kennan
  • James R. Walker

The paper develops a tractable econometric model of optimal migration, focusing on expected income as the main economic influence on migration. The model improves on previous work in two respects: it covers optimal sequences of location decisions (rather than a single once-for-all choice), and it allows for many alternative location choices. The model is estimated using panel data from the NLSY on white males with a high school education. Our main conclusion is that interstate migration decisions are influenced to a substantial extent by income prospects. The results suggest that the link between income and migration decisions is driven both by geographic differences in mean wages and by a tendency to move in search of a better locational match when the income realization in the current location is unfavorable.

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Article provided by Econometric Society in its journal Econometrica.

Volume (Year): 79 (2011)
Issue (Month): 1 (01)
Pages: 211-251

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Handle: RePEc:ecm:emetrp:v:79:y:2011:i:1:p:211-251
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  1. Kennan, John & Walker, James R., 2010. "Wages, welfare benefits and migration," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 156(1), pages 229-238, May.
  2. Banks, Jeffrey S & Sundaram, Rangarajan K, 1994. "Switching Costs and the Gittins Index," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(3), pages 687-94, May.
  3. Neal, Derek, 1999. "The Complexity of Job Mobility among Young Men," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(2), pages 237-61, April.
  4. Rust, John, 1987. "Optimal Replacement of GMC Bus Engines: An Empirical Model of Harold Zurcher," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(5), pages 999-1033, September.
  5. Topel, Robert H, 1986. "Local Labor Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(3), pages S111-43, June.
  6. Michael P. Keane & Kenneth I. Wolpin, 1995. "The career decisions of young men," Working Papers 559, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  7. Olivier Jean Blanchard & Lawrence F. Katz, 1992. "Regional Evolutions," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 23(1), pages 1-76.
  8. Patricia Reagan & Randall Olsen, 2000. "You can go home again: Evidence from longitudinal data," Demography, Springer, vol. 37(3), pages 339-350, August.
  9. Barro, Robert J & Sala-i-Martin, Xavier, 1992. "Convergence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(2), pages 223-51, April.
  10. Robert E. B. Lucas, 1994. "Internal Migration in Developing Countries," Boston University - Institute for Economic Development 43, Boston University, Institute for Economic Development.
  11. Schultz, T Paul, 1982. "Lifetime Migration within Educational Strata in Venezuela: Estimates of a Logistic Model," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(3), pages 559-93, April.
  12. Peter Gottschalk & Robert Moffitt, 1994. "The Growth of Earnings Instability in the U.S. Labor Market," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 25(2), pages 217-272.
  13. Katz, Lawrence F. & Autor, David H., 1999. "Changes in the wage structure and earnings inequality," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 26, pages 1463-1555 Elsevier.
  14. Robert J. Barro & Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 1991. "Convergence across States and Regions," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 22(1), pages 107-182.
  15. Tunali, Insan, 2000. "Rationality of Migration," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 41(4), pages 893-920, November.
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