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The Role of Unemployment in Triggering Internal Labor Migration


  • George McCarthy


George McCarthy's paper explores the internal migration of labor in response to structural changes in the U.S. economy. He presents an empirical study of the relationship between wage determination and the migration decision co evaluate the role of both spiral wage differences and unemployment in motivating migration. Also, the paper assesses the relative homogeneity of the population pertaining to migration and wage determination. Orthodox analyses label the economic actor as an autonomous agent seeking to maximize lifetime utility. McCarthy uses data from the National Longitudinal Survey of the Labor Market Experience of Youth to assess the unemployment and wage motivations for migratory behavior among young males. The findings suggest that unemployment (e.g. the condition of being unemployed at point of origin and the unemployment rate at the point of destination) plays a larger role in prompting migration than spatial wage differences, and heterogeneity exists within the population with regard to migration.for example, it is implied that a person who has migrated previously is more prone to migrate again. The results challenge the validity of regarding labor and capital mobility as similarly motivated. Moreover, the conclusion is in contrast to the human capital view of migration as a voluntary investment decision: Wakin to the decision of labor to work or starve, migration involves the decision to move or adapt to a lower standard of living. To treat this as a voluntary decision is ludicrous." The public policy responses to address this problem can employ two distinct lines of attack: enhance the mobility of labor (e.g. increase skill or education levels) and minimize the social costs of mobility, or impede the mobility of capital by weakening its bargaining position through legislative action.

Suggested Citation

  • George McCarthy, 1992. "The Role of Unemployment in Triggering Internal Labor Migration," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_75, Levy Economics Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:lev:wrkpap:wp_75

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. David R. Howell, 1991. "Employment Restructuring and the Labor Market Status of Young Black Men in the 1980s," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_67, Levy Economics Institute.
    2. Schultz, Theodore W, 1975. "The Value of the Ability to Deal with Disequilibria," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 13(3), pages 827-846, September.
    3. William A. Darity Jr., 1982. "The Human Capital Approach to Black-White Earnings Inequality: Some Unsettled Questions," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 17(1), pages 72-93.
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    Cited by:

    1. David C Maré & Wai Kin Choy, 2001. "Regional Labour Market Adjustment and the Movements of People: A Review," Treasury Working Paper Series 01/08, New Zealand Treasury.

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