Understanding the Long-Run Decline in Interstate Migration

Posted on
Sunday, February 12, 2017 - 5:21pm

I consider this question at some length in my forthcoming The Complacent Class, and now there is a new study by Greg Kaplan and Sam Schulhofer-Wohl, consistent with my conclusions:

We analyze the secular decline in gross interstate migration in the United States from 1991 to 2011. We argue that migration fell because of a decline in the geographic specificity of returns to occupations, together with an increase in workers’ ability to learn about other locations before moving. Micro data on earnings and occupations across space provide evidence for lower geographic specificity. Other explanations do not fit the data. A calibrated model formalizes the geographic specificity and information mechanisms and is consistent with cross-sectional and time-series evidence. Our mechanisms can explain at least half of the decline in migration.

As I put it in the book, if you are a dentist you probably are not going to move from Columbus, Ohio to Denver, Colorado for higher dentist wages.  Rather you will figure out pretty early on which location you prefer and then stay there.

Hat tip goes to the excellent Kevin Lewis.

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