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Understanding the long-run decline in interstate migration

  • Greg Kaplan
  • Sam Schulhofer-Wohl

We analyze the secular decline in interstate migration in the United States between 1991 and 2011. Gross flows of people across states are about 10 times larger than net flows, yet have declined by around 50 percent over the past 20 years. We show that micro data rule out many popular explanations for this decline, including aging of the population, the rise of two-earner households, other compositional changes, regional changes, and the rise in real incomes. We argue instead that the fall in migration is due to a decline in the geographic specificity of occupations and an increase in workers’ ability to learn about other locations before moving there, through both information technology and inexpensive travel. We develop a theory to formalize these ideas and show that a plausibly calibrated version is consistent with cross-sectional and time-series patterns of interstate migration, occupations, and incomes.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in its series Working Papers with number 697.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmwp:697
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  1. Greg Kaplan & Sam Schulhofer-Wohl, 2011. "Interstate migration has fallen less than you think: consequences of hot deck imputation in the Current Population Survey," Staff Report 458, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  2. Marcelo Veracierto & Jonas Fisher & Morris Davis, 2012. "The Role of Housing in Labor Reallocation," 2012 Meeting Papers 805, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  3. Bayer, Christian & Juessen, Falko, 2006. "On the Dynamics of Interstate Migration: Migration Costs and Self-Selection," Technical Reports 2006,38, Technische Universität Dortmund, Sonderforschungsbereich 475: Komplexitätsreduktion in multivariaten Datenstrukturen.
  4. Coen-Pirani, Daniele, 2010. "Understanding gross worker flows across U.S. states," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(7), pages 769-784, October.
  5. Giovanni L. Violante & Fatih Guvenen & Bulent Guler, 2008. "Joint-Search Theory: New Opportunities and New Frictions," 2008 Meeting Papers 856, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  6. Jacob Mincer, 1977. "Family Migration Decisions," NBER Working Papers 0199, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Matthieu Crozet, 2004. "Do migrants follow market potentials? An estimation of a new economic geography model," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(4), pages 439-458, August.
  8. Paul Krugman, 1990. "Increasing Returns and Economic Geography," NBER Working Papers 3275, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Davis, Steven J. & Faberman, R. Jason & Haltiwanger, John, 2012. "Labor market flows in the cross section and over time," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(1), pages 1-18.
  10. Edward Glaeser, 1997. "Learning in Cities," NBER Working Papers 6271, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Gerald Carlino & Satyajit Chatterjee, 2002. "Employment Deconcentration: A New Perspective on America's Postwar Urban Evolution," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 42(3), pages 445-475.
  12. Gordon B. Dahl, 2002. "Mobility and the Return to Education: Testing a Roy Model with Multiple Markets," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(6), pages 2367-2420, November.
  13. Roback, Jennifer, 1982. "Wages, Rents, and the Quality of Life," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(6), pages 1257-78, December.
  14. Lucas, Robert Jr. & Prescott, Edward C., 1974. "Equilibrium search and unemployment," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 188-209, February.
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