Pulling Up Stakes

Source: Betty Joyce Nash, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Region Focus, Vol. 16 nos. 2-3, Second/Third Quarter 2012

Americans are moving less, and it’s not clear why — but housing is not the whole story.

…Americans are known for their itchy feet. Increasingly, however, many have been opting to stay put….We move more than people of most other nations. Our domestic migration rate — roughly 5 percent to 6 percent of the U.S. population moves across a county boundary annually — both reflects and reinforces our dynamic labor market.

Domestic migration helps match workers to employers. It keeps labor markets supple. It smoothes shocks that may hit one region and spare another. Migration mitigates the effects of economic restructuring, such as population shifts that rearranged Americans geographically as the nation industrialized before and after World War II.

Moving may seem rooted in our national psyche, but the number of domestic migrants has been trending lower. The slide started in the 1980s, not with this decade’s falling house prices and deep recession. The migration slump of the past three decades is a puzzling and possibly momentous change in America’s social and economic picture. If the trend continues, labor market flexibility may be at risk. But the reasons for it are hard to pin down…
Why Has Regional Convergence in the U.S. Stopped?
Source: Peter Ganong, Daniel Shoag, Harvard Kennedy School Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP 12-028, June 2012

Dwindling U.S. Internal Migration: Evidence of a Spatial Equilibrium or Structural Shifts in Local Labor Markets?
Source: Mark D. Partridge, Dan S. Rickman, M. Rose Olfert, and Kamar Ali, Regional Science and Urban Economics, Vol. 42 no. 1-2, January 2012
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Internal Migration in the United States
Source: Raven Molloy, Christopher L. Smith, and Abigail Wozniak, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 25 no. 3, Summer 2011

The Slow Down in Family Migration in the United States
Source: Siyi Zhu, Li Gan, Texas A&M University Job Market Paper, December 2011

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