Year of Publication



Martin School of Public Policy and Administration

Date Available


Degree Name

Master of Public Administration

Committee Chair

Dr. Ron Zimmer

Committee Member

Dr. Chuyani Guo

Committee Member

Dr. Catherine Annis

Committee Member

David Duttlinger

Executive Summary

The state of Kentucky is home to many rural counties which experience high levels of outward migration due to their relatively unfavorable economic conditions. While migration trends nationally have begun to plateau, migration flows from county to county show a much more volatile story. This study will examine the relationship between economic opportunity and migration flow estimates in Kentucky’s counties through a multiple regression approach with the response variable being annual migration flow estimates, with multiple predictor variables showing the economic composition of the county. Variables used in this regression include annual unemployment rates, educational attainment levels, county poverty rates, and the percentage of a county’s population that is of the prime working age, 25-54. Based on the results of this regression, it was determined that there are a few counties in Kentucky that despite relatively unfavorable economic conditions, have been able to stem the flow of outward migration and either maintain their existing working population, or attract new citizens to their county. At the heart of this research is the question of why some of these counties have been more successful than others in retaining their young people despite these existing economic hardships. Due to this finding, interviews with public officials, organizations, and agencies associated with these “bright spot” counties were conducted and the results of these interviews were used to highlight the strategies used by these counties to stem the flow of outward migration, while also providing other county, state, and national leaders with recommendations based on the success stories of these few Kentucky counties.



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