Power Couples: Changes in the Locational Choice of the College Educated, 1940-1990

Dora L. Costa, Matthew E. Kahn

NBER Working Paper No. 7109
Issued in May 1999
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy, Labor Studies

The rise of the dual career household is a recent phenomenon spurred by the increase in married women's labor force participation rates and educational attainment rates. Compared to traditional households these households must solve a colocation problem. This paper documents trends in locational choice between large and small metropolitan areas and non-metropolitan areas by household type from 1940 to 1990. We find that college educated couples are increasingly concentrated in large metropolitan areas and attribute at least half of this increase to the growing severity of the colocation problem. We also find that the relative returns for a college-educated couple of being in a large relative to a small city have increased across decades. Our results suggest that because skilled professionals are increasingly bundled with an equally skilled spouse, smaller cities may experience reduced inflows of human capital relative to the past and therefore become poorer. We examine how the relationship between rankings of university graduate programs and city size has changed between 1970 and 1990 to provide suggestive evidence on the importance of city size to firms' ability to attract the best workers.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w7109

Published: Costa, Dora L. and Matthew E. Kahn. "Power Couples: Changes In The Location Choice Of The College Educated," Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2000, v115(4,Nov), 1287-1315. citation courtesy of

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