, Volume 51, Issue 3, pp 777–809 | Cite as

Residential Mobility Across Local Areas in the United States and the Geographic Distribution of the Healthy Population

  • Arline T. GeronimusEmail author
  • John Bound
  • Annie Ro


Determining whether population dynamics provide competing explanations to place effects for observed geographic patterns of population health is critical for understanding health inequality. We focus on the working-age population—the period of adulthood when health disparities are greatest—and analyze detailed data on residential mobility collected for the first time in the 2000 U.S. census. Residential mobility over a five-year period is frequent and selective, with some variation by race and gender. Even so, we found little evidence that mobility biases cross-sectional snapshots of local population health. Areas undergoing large or rapid population growth or decline may be exceptions. Overall, place of residence is an important health indicator; yet, the frequency of residential mobility raises questions of interpretation from etiological or policy perspectives, complicating simple understandings that residential exposures alone explain the association between place and health. Psychosocial stressors related to contingencies of social identity associated with being black, urban, or poor in the United States may also have adverse health impacts that track with structural location even with movement across residential areas.


Place and health Residential mobility Race and health SES Urban/rural 


Acknowledgments and Disclaimer

We are grateful for funding from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Grant No. R21 HD056307) and the National Institute of Aging (Grant No. 5 T32 AG00221), as well as to the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University and the University of California’s President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship program. Support for this research at the RDC from NSF (ITR-0427889) is also gratefully acknowledged. We also thank seminar participants at the University of Minnesota RDC and three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier versions of this article. Any opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Census Bureau. All results have been reviewed to ensure that no confidential information is disclosed.


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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Population Studies Center, Institute of Social Research; and Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public HealthUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Department of Economics; and Population Studies Center, Institute for Social ResearchUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Department of Population Health and Disease Prevention, Program in Public HealthUC IrvineIrvineUSA

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