, Volume 54, Issue 2, pp 631–653 | Cite as

Job Changing and the Decline in Long-Distance Migration in the United States

  • Raven Molloy
  • Christopher L. SmithEmail author
  • Abigail Wozniak


Interstate migration in the United States has decreased steadily since the 1980s, but little is known about the causes of this decline. We show that declining migration is related to a concurrent secular decline in job changing. Neither trend is primarily due to observable demographic or socioeconomic factors. Rather, we argue that the decline in job changing has caused the decline in migration. After establishing a role for the labor market in declining migration, we turn to the question of why job changing has become less frequent over the past several decades. We find little support for several explanations, including the rise of dual-career households, the decline in middle-skill jobs, occupational licensing, and the need for employees to retain health insurance. Thus, the reasons for these dual trends remain opaque and should be explored further.


Migration Job change Labor market participation Population aging Licensing 



Wozniak would especially like to thank Frank Limehouse and the team at the Chicago Census Research Data Center for assistance with the restricted National Longitudinal Surveys. Ning Jia and Adam Scherling also provided invaluable research assistance. The authors would like to thank Moshe Buchinsky and James Spletzer as well as seminar participants at Temple University, University of Notre Dame, University of Wisconsin–Madison, University of Illinois–Chicago, University of California–Santa Barbara, the U.S. Departments of the Treasury and of Labor, and conference participants at the Federal Reserve System conference on Regional Analysis, the 2012 Census Research Data Center Researcher conference, and the Society of Labor Economists. Any opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not indicate concurrence with other members of the research staff of the Federal Reserve, the Board of Governors, or the U.S. Census Bureau. All results have been reviewed to ensure that no confidential information is disclosed. Any errors are our own.


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Copyright information

© Population Association of America (outside the USA) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Raven Molloy
    • 1
  • Christopher L. Smith
    • 1
    Email author
  • Abigail Wozniak
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Federal Reserve Board of GovernorsWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Economics, Flanner HallUniversity of Notre DameNotre DameUSA
  3. 3.National Bureau of Economic ResearchCambridgeUSA
  4. 4.IZA Institute of Labor EconomicsBonnGermany

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