Migration and Labor Market Opportunities

  • Michael J. Greenwood
Reference work entry


This chapter traces the development of the role of economic opportunities in the study of migration. From the earliest years of internal migration as a recognized field of study, scholars in many social science disciplines believed that such opportunities were key determinants of migration. However, during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the lack of statistical measures of income and wages at subnational levels prevented empirical testing of the economic opportunity hypothesis. During this time, much rural-to-urban migration was occurring, and the presumption was that these flows were being driven by perceived urban–rural differences in economic well-being. The first formal measures used by economists in the 1930s were regional unemployment rates, and these rates proved to be significant determinants of migration during the Depression, but did not always hold up to scrutiny in later years. As aggregate income measures became increasingly available after 1960, they were incorporated in migration models, but their empirical success also was limited. Finally, the availability of microdata that reflects personal employment status and household income has allowed numerous advances in our understanding of various migration phenomena and also has helped clear up many dilemmas regarding earlier migration studies that used aggregate data.


Unemployment Rate Business Cycle Internal Migration Economic Opportunity Migration Model 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA

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