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The Impact of College Graduation on Geographic Mobility: Identifying Education Using Multiple Components of Vietnam Draft Risk


  • Ofer Malamud
  • Abigail Wozniak


College-educated workers are twice as likely as high school graduates to make lasting long-distance moves, but little is known about the role of college itself in determining geographic mobility. Unobservable characteristics related to selection into college might also drive the relationship between college education and geographic mobility. We explore this question using a number of methods to analyze both the 1980 Census and longitudinal sources. We conclude that the causal impact of college completion on subsequent mobility is large. We introduce new instrumental variables that allow us to identify educational attainment and veteran status separately in a sample of men whose college decisions were exogenously influenced by their draft risk during the Vietnam War. Our preferred IV estimates imply that graduation increases the probability that a man resides outside his birth state by approximately 35 percentage points, a magnitude nearly twice as large as the OLS migration differential between college and high school graduates. IV estimates of graduation’s impact on total distance moved are even larger, with IV estimates that exceed OLS considerably. We provide evidence from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) 1979 that our large IV estimates are plausible and likely explained by heterogeneous treatment effects. Finally, we provide some suggestive evidence on the mechanisms driving the relationship between college completion and mobility.

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  • Ofer Malamud & Abigail Wozniak, 2008. "The Impact of College Graduation on Geographic Mobility: Identifying Education Using Multiple Components of Vietnam Draft Risk," Working Papers 0811, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
  • Handle: RePEc:har:wpaper:0811

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Carmit Segal, 2006. "Motivation, test scores and economic success," Economics Working Papers 1124, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Oct 2008.
    2. Wozniak, Abigail, 2006. "Educational Differences in the Migration Responses of Young Workers to Local Labor Market Conditions," IZA Discussion Papers 1954, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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    Cited by:

    1. Gallo, Fredrik, 2010. "Resisting economic integration when industry location is uncertain," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 54(3), pages 467-482, April.
    2. Riddell, W. Craig & Song, Xueda, 2011. "The impact of education on unemployment incidence and re-employment success: Evidence from the U.S. labour market," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(4), pages 453-463, August.
    3. Peter McHenry, 2011. "The Relationship between Location Choice and Earnings Inequality," Working Papers 112, Department of Economics, College of William and Mary.
    4. Stephen Machin & Kjell G. Salvanes & Panu Pelkonen, 2012. "Education And Mobility," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 10(2), pages 417-450, April.
    5. Matthew J. Notowidigdo, 2011. "The Incidence of Local Labor Demand Shocks," NBER Working Papers 17167, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Böckerman, Petri & Haapanen, Mika, 2010. "The effect of education on migration: Evidence from school reform," MPRA Paper 27629, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. John Kennan & James R. Walker, 2013. "Modeling individual migration decisions," Chapters,in: International Handbook on the Economics of Migration, chapter 2, pages 39-54 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    8. Brad J. Hershbein, 2013. "Worker Signals among New College Graduates: The Role of Selectivity and GPA," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 13-190, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    9. Peter McHenry, 2014. "The Geographic Distribution Of Human Capital: Measurement Of Contributing Mechanisms," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(2), pages 215-248, March.

    More about this item


    geographic mobility; college; higher education; vietnam;

    JEL classification:

    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions

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