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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 argue that the fall in migration is due to a decline in the geographic speci city of returns to occupations, together with an increase in workers' ability to learn about other locations before moving there, through information technology and inexpensive travel. These explanations find support in micro data on the distribution of earnings and occupations across space and on rates of repeat migration. Other explanations, including compositional changes, regional changes, and the rise in real incomes, do not fit the data. We develop a model to formalize the geographic-specificity and information mechanisms and show that a calibrated version is consistent with cross-sectional and time-series patterns of migration, occupations, and incomes. Our mechanisms can explain at least one-third and possibly all of the decline in gross migration since 1991.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18507.

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Date of creation: Nov 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18507
Note: EFG LS
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  1. Coen-Pirani, Daniele, 2010. "Understanding gross worker flows across U.S. states," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(7), pages 769-784, October.
  2. Greg Kaplan & Sam Schulhofer-Wohl, 2012. "Interstate Migration Has Fallen Less Than You Think: Consequences of Hot Deck Imputation in the Current Population Survey," Demography, Springer, vol. 49(3), pages 1061-1074, August.
  3. Edward Glaeser, 1997. "Learning in Cities," NBER Working Papers 6271, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Bayer, Christian & Juessen, Falko, 2008. "On the Dynamics of Interstate Migration: Migration Costs and Self-Selection," IZA Discussion Papers 3330, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Matthieu Crozet, 2004. "Do Migrants Follow Market Potentials? An Estimation of a New Economic Geography Model," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-00096277, HAL.
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  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Steven J. Davis & Jason Faberman & John C. Haltiwanger, 2011. "Labor Market Flows in the Cross Section and Over Time," NBER Working Papers 17294, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Mincer, Jacob, 1978. "Family Migration Decisions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(5), pages 749-73, October.
  11. Paul Krugman, 1990. "Increasing Returns and Economic Geography," NBER Working Papers 3275, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Bulent Guler & Fatih Guvenen & Giovanni L. Violante, 2009. "Joint-Search Theory: New Opportunities and New Frictions," NBER Working Papers 15011, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  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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