Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Business and Economics



First Advisor

Dr. James P. Ziliak


This dissertation explores how migration responds to economic conditions, particularly differences in responsiveness for various segments of the population. After a brief introduction and motivation of my work in Chapter One, Chapter Two estimates the responsiveness of households’ interstate migration to origin state labor market conditions and surrounding state labor market conditions. Each percentage point increase in origin state unemployment insurance claims leads to a 3.2 percent increase in household’s propensity to migrate interstate and each percentage point increase in the unemployment insurance claims rate of surrounding states reduces interstate migration propensity by 5.2 percent. I then examine how this responsiveness varies by demographics and how it has changed over time. I determine that the responsiveness of migration to labor market conditions is weaker for several groups at high poverty risk, including less educated, non-employed and rural households and households with children present. I also show that between the early 1980s and mid 1990s labor market conditions became a smaller factor in household migration decisions, but since then labor market conditions have gained in importance.

While Chapter Two examines short-run migration responsiveness, Chapter Three explores the size of the long-run outflow (or inflow) of skilled labor occurring in local areas in response to economic conditions, amenities and other area characteristics. I estimate the extent of this brain gain and brain drain within localities in the United States between the early 1990s and late 2000s, describing both absolute changes (percentage growth in the stock of educated individuals) and relative changes (growth in the share of educated individuals). For each of three measures of brain gain estimated, I show substantially more positive flows of educated individuals towards local areas with strong initial economic conditions. I also show that non-metropolitan areas are more likely to experience all three measures of brain drain. I present evidence that nonmetropolitan areas’ inability to attract and retain educated individuals stems primarily from labor market disparities including the urban-rural wage differential.