The Decline and Rise of Interstate Migration in the United States: Evidence from the IPUMS, 1850-1990

Joshua L. Rosenbloom, William A. Sundstrom

NBER Working Paper No. 9857
Issued in July 2003
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies

We examine evidence on trends in interstate migration over the past 150 years, using data from the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series of the U.S. Census (IPUMS). Two measures of migration are calculated. The first considers an individual to have moved if she is residing in a state different from her state of birth. The second considers a family to have moved if it is residing in a state different from the state of birth of one of its young children. The latter measure allows us estimate the timing of moves more accurately. Our results suggest that overall migration propensities have followed a U-shaped trend since 1850, falling until around 1900 and then rising until around 1970. We examine variation in the propensity to make an interstate move by age, sex, race, nativity, region of origin, family structure, and education. Counterfactuals based on probit estimates of the propensity to migrate suggest that the rise in migration of families since 1900 is largely attributable to increased educational attainment. The decline of interstate migration in the late nineteenth century remains to be explained.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w9857

Published: Field, Alexander J. (ed.) Research in economic history. Volume 22. Amsterdam and San Diego: Elsevier, JAI, 2004.

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