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Housing prices and inter-urban migration


  • Plantinga, Andrew J.
  • Détang-Dessendre, Cécile
  • Hunt, Gary L.
  • Piguet, Virginie


Economic theory predicts that individual migration decisions for working-age adults will depend on area differences in wages, housing costs, and amenities. While the importance of wages and amenities is well-established from previous empirical studies, evidence regarding housing costs is far less conclusive. We develop and test a new method for representing housing prices in migration analyses. We first provide conditions under which utility-maximizing housing costs can be specified as a function of individual characteristics, similar to a Mincerian wage equation. Using large samples of individuals from the 2000 PUMS, we estimate the relationship between housing costs and individual attributes for each of 291 metropolitan areas in the U.S. Our approach accounts for rental and ownership decisions, the costs of rental and owned properties, and the costs of holding housing capital. We test our housing cost measure using observations of point-to-point migration decisions for a large sample of college-educated males. Our migration model includes additional controls for the wage each individual expects to earn in each area as well as a large set of area amenities. Our key finding is that our proposed housing cost measure yields the expected results (higher housing prices reduce the probability that an area is selected). We re-estimate the model using three alternative metropolitan area measures of housing costs: median house price, average apartment rent, and average urban land rent. These measures consistently produce counterintuitive positive effects of housing costs on area choice.

Suggested Citation

  • Plantinga, Andrew J. & Détang-Dessendre, Cécile & Hunt, Gary L. & Piguet, Virginie, 2013. "Housing prices and inter-urban migration," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 296-306.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:regeco:v:43:y:2013:i:2:p:296-306 DOI: 10.1016/j.regsciurbeco.2012.07.009

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. Richard J. Cebula & Maggie Foley & Joshua C. Hall, 2016. "Freedom and gross in-migration: an empirical study of the post-great recession experience," Journal of Economics and Finance, Springer;Academy of Economics and Finance, vol. 40(2), pages 402-420, April.
    3. Michael Klien, 2016. "Austria 2025 – Perspectives of a Regionally Differentiated Housing and Transport Policy Against the Backdrop of Demographic Change in Austria," WIFO Monatsberichte (monthly reports), WIFO, vol. 89(11), pages 799-808, November.
    4. H. Allen Klaiber & Joshua Abbott & V. Kerry Smith, 2015. "Some Like it (Less) Hot: Extracting Tradeoff Measures for Physically Coupled Amenities," NBER Working Papers 21051, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Cho, Cheol-Joo, 2017. "The displacement and attraction effects in interurban migration: An application of the input-output scheme to the case of large cities in Korea," Economics Discussion Papers 2017-49, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    6. Richard Cebula, 2014. "The Impact of Economic Freedom and Personal Freedom on Net In-Migration in the U.S.: A State-Level Empirical Analysis, 2000 to 2010," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, vol. 35(1), pages 88-103, March.

    More about this item


    Regional migration; Regional labor markets; Population; Neighborhood characteristics; Housing supply and markets;

    JEL classification:

    • R23 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population
    • R31 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Real Estate Markets, Spatial Production Analysis, and Firm Location - - - Housing Supply and Markets


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