Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 25 No. 3 (Summer 2011)


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Internal Migration in the United States

Article Citation

Molloy, Raven, Christopher L. Smith, and Abigail Wozniak. 2011. "Internal Migration in the United States." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 25(3): 173-96.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.25.3.173


This paper examines the history of internal migration in the United States since the 1980s. By most measures, internal migration in the United States is at a 30-year low. The widespread decline in migration rates across a large number of subpopulations suggests that broad-based economic forces are likely responsible for the decrease. An obvious question is the extent to which the recent housing market contraction and the recession may have caused this downward trend in migration: after all, relocation activity often involves both housing market activity and changes in employment. However, we find relatively small roles for both of these cyclical factors. While we will suggest a few other possible explanations for the recent decrease in migration, the puzzle remains. Finally, we compare U.S. migration to other developed countries. Despite the steady decline in U.S. migration, the commonly held belief that Americans are more mobile than their European counterparts still appears to hold true.

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Molloy, Raven (Federal Reserve Board)
Smith, Christopher L. (Federal Reserve Board)
Wozniak, Abigail (U Notre Dame and IZA, Bonn)

JEL Classifications

E32: Business Fluctuations; Cycles
R21: Urban, Rural, and Regional Economics: Housing Demand
R23: Urban, Rural, and Regional Economics: Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population; Neighborhood Characteristics
R31: Housing Supply and Markets


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