Econometrica: Jan 2011, Volume 79, Issue 1

The Effect of Expected Income on Individual Migration Decisions

https://doi.org/10.3982/ECTA4657
p. 211-251

John Kennan, James R. Walker

This paper develops a tractable econometric model of optimal migration, focusing on expected income as the main economic influence on migration. The model improves on previous work in two respects: it covers optimal sequences of location decisions (rather than a single once‐for‐all choice) and it allows for many alternative location choices. The model is estimated using panel data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth on white males with a high‐school education. Our main conclusion is that interstate migration decisions are influenced to a substantial extent by income prospects. The results suggest that the link between income and migration decisions is driven both by geographic differences in mean wages and by a tendency to move in search of a better locational match when the income realization in the current location is unfavorable.

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