In recent decades, domestic migration has been largely triggered by life cycle changes – leaving the parent’s home, getting a new job, marriage – and has been dominated by younger, more educated people. At the same time, cities or regions in economic decline tend to push people out, while those enjoying economic growth or opportunity tend to pull people in.
Over time, the fraction of population in the U.S. that moves has steadily declined. Did housing and economic shocks over the 2000 period altered migration trends in any way?
The answer may differ depending on which part of the decade is studied. For example, during the 2004 to 2006 period, when the housing bubble was at its height and unemployment rates were reasonably low, the decline in overall migration experienced an up-tick; higher housing costs could prompt moves to move to lower-cost states or areas. Alternatively, relatively low unemployment and increased job opportunities could have encouraged people to stay put: especially in high-flying states and other areas with then-robust local economies. Thus, the decline in migration could have accelerated or continued its long term downward trend. A similar line of reasoning could be applied to the 2006 to 2009 period when housing markets began to collapse and unemployment rates began to rise.
More importantly, the project explores how these trends differ by important demographic characteristics, especially by race, nativity, income, age, educational attainment and homeowner status. For example, over the past three to four decades, the largest positive net inflows of migration have been observed in the South and West (i.e., the Sun Belt regions), with net outflows in the Northeast and Midwest.
One of Stoll’s central questions: whether these trends accelerated or reversed over the 2000 period as a result of the influences of the housing market and economy. This question is of particular importance with respect to black migration streams. In the 1980s and 1990s, more African Americans were migrating to the South than leaving it, mimicking the black egress from the South in the 1930s, ’40s and ‘50s.
The project will rely primarily on data from the Current Population Survey and the American Community Survey, and will use the timing of events over the 2000 period regarding the housing market and economic shocks to identify the impacts of these events on domestic migration. Though with some limitations, the CPS contains data that reports the reasons for a move, such as searching for employment or for cheaper housing.