Arnold Kling  

Enrico Moretti on Mobility

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Interviewed by Nick Schulz, he says,


In total, almost half of college graduates move out of their birth states by age 30. Only 27 percent of high school graduates and 17 percent of high school dropouts do so.

It is possible that mobility is the dependent variable, and that more education makes you more mobile. But consider the alternative possibility, which is that willingness to move is the independent variable, and that it happens to be highly correlated with education. Remember that one theory of how World War II ended the Depression is that it moved people out of their home towns, creating new patterns of specialization and trade.

UPDATE (lifted from the comments): Donald R. Davis and Jonathan I. Dingel propose a model in which people face different incentives to move, rather than different tastes for moving.



COMMENTS (10 to date)
Becky Hargrove writes:

...and many of us when we leave the home state, have zero desire to move back! But mobility can be a tricky thing as one gets older.

mike shupp writes:

The first thing that strikes me is that a lot of college students go out of state to begin with. If you've grown up in Ohio say, then go to Purdue in Indiana for an engineering degree, moving on to Chicago doesn't seem at all unreasonable; if you're a high school grad without a job offer, that looks like a risky, expensive move.

Second thing is that at one point high school grads had a good chance of being drafted, which would have moved them around az bit, and -- at the end -- have left them with funds and perhaps a taste for settling down outside their home state. Did this study look into whether behavior had changed in say the last 50 years?

Jonathan writes:

Another possibility is that all individuals are equally willing to move, but the incentives to move (demand for moves) differ(s) across skill groups. That's the explanation we posit in http://www.nber.org/papers/w18188

Bryan Sloss writes:

There may be a combination of factors. Many people do leave home for college and never return. On the other hand, moving costs time, money, and aggravation. It may not be worth it to a high school drop out to go to all that time, effort, and expense for the same low paying job prospects they can find at home. Jobs requiring higher skill and education are more limited and harder to find in a given community. So, it probably makes more sense for a Silicon Valley high tech worker to move to Seattle or Boston, if that's where the higher paying jobs happen to be. In my view, there's more incentive to move.

Scott Gustafson writes:

When I got done with my MS, I went to work for a major oil company. They proceeded to move us 8 times in 5 years (including the initial move right out of school.) We've moved a couple of times since.

Every move has been for work. So my experience tracks with the idea that more specialized labor moves to where the jobs are.

John Thacker writes:

Jonathan, there's good evidence from this paper that the incentive to move would not be stronger for the higher skilled except for the relatively recent adoption of housing restrictions. Convergence in incomes stopped and inequality increased due to housing restrictions adopted mostly in progressive states. They have good instruments in the paper to reject the idea that a change in the value of high skill workers concentrating is the cause.

It used to be just as valuable for low skill workers to move to high income areas. It still is common with states like Texas that do more good for the low skilled in sharing the wealth instead of putting it all into housing prices.

John Thacker writes:

A recent paper offers the hypothesis that increasing housing restrictions are responsible for the reduction in migration of the lower skilled. They claim to have instruments that dismiss the hypothesis that the reduced incentive to move is caused by the benefits of highly skilled workers clustering.
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2081216

John Thacker writes:

A recent paper offers the hypothesis that increasing housing restrictions are responsible for the reduction in migration of the lower skilled. They claim to have instruments that dismiss the hypothesis that the reduced incentive to move is caused by the benefits of highly skilled workers clustering.

John Thacker writes:

I wish I could post a link to the paper, but of course it trips the spam filter.

[John, a link doesn't always trip the spam filter. Sometimes it depends on words or partial words within the link, or whether it is to a particular site. Or if you put the link in more than once in the same comment. Just sayin'. At any rate, I've rescued your comments with the link.--EconLog Ed.]

John Thacker writes:

It is a paper by Peter Ganong and Daniel Shoag, recently mentioned, among elsewhere, in Virginia Postrel's column.

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