Voting with their feet: Relative economic conditions and state migration patterns
Over the past decade, state and local policymakers and business leaders across the U.S. have expressed concern regarding the ability to attract and retain skilled workers, given the economic climate of their states compared with other parts of the nation. Examining the factors underlying state-level migration trends is important to determine what role, if any, public policy might play in addressing their potential impact on local labor supply. Using data from the Internal Revenue Service for each of the 48 states in the continental United States from 1977 through 2006, this paper examines the role of three economic factors--namely labor market conditions, per capita incomes, and housing affordability--in determining domestic state-to-state migration flows. Estimates from a logistic model of out-migration show that while all three measures of relative economic conditions are significant determinants of migration, the magnitude of their impact varies and has changed considerably over time. For example, the importance of per capita income as a determining factor has fallen considerably since the late 1970s, while that of housing affordability has risen. Interestingly, the role of labor market conditions--while significant throughout the entire 30-year period--was most prominent in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Estimates from the model are used to forecast migration for 2009 for selected states. The results from this exercise are surprisingly accurate when compared to actual state migration patterns for that year.
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