Declining Migration within the U.S.: The Role of the Labor Market
57 Pages Posted: 31 Dec 2013
Date Written: November 1, 2013
Interstate migration has decreased steadily since the 1980s. We show that this trend is not related to demographic and socioeconomic factors, but that it appears to be connected to a concurrent secular decline in labor market transitions — i.e. the fraction of workers changing employer, industry or occupation. We explore a number of reasons for the dual trends in geographic and labor market transitions, including changes in the distribution of job opportunities across space, polarization in the labor market, concerns of dual-career households, and changes in the net benefit to changing employers. We find little empirical support for all but the last of these hypotheses. Specifically, using data from three cohorts of the National Longitudinal Surveys spanning the 1970s to the 2000s, we find that wage gains associated with employer transitions have fallen, while the returns to staying with the same employer have not changed. We favor the interpretation that, at least from the 1990s to the 2000s, the distribution of outside offers has shifted in a way that has made labor market transitions, and thus geographic transitions, less desirable to workers.
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