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Self‐Selection and Internal Migration in the United States

George J. Borjas, Stephen G. Bronars, and Stephen J. Trejo


The population of the United States is highly mobile. Since the 1960s, approximately three percent of the population moves across state lines in any given year, and 10 percent of the population moves across state lines in a five-year period. In view of the falling fertility rates of American women, this extensive mobility implies that migration has become an increasingly important source of demographic change in the various regions and a major determinant of concurrent changes in regional economic growth.

Internal migration rates are especially high among the young. In the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, over half of the sample are currently (i.e., in 1986) residing in a state other than their state of birth, and about 40 percent are living in a different state than they were at age 14 (see Table 1). The data also indicate that approximately 8 percent of white young men and 6 percent of black and Hispanic young men move across state boundaries in any given year. Our study presents a theoretical and empirical analysis of the internal migration of young workers in the United States.