Declining Internal Migration: A Rise in Immobility or a Fall in Repeat Migration?

Jing Wu , University of Queensland
Aude Bernard , University of Queensland

Despite being one of the most migratory countries, the level of internal migration in the United States has steadily declined since the 1980s. However, our understanding of this trend remains constrained by reliance on repeated cross-sectional data, which do not permit disaggregating migration behaviour by move order. Thus, it is unclear whether this decline is the result of an increase in lifetime immobility, a decline in repeat migration, or a combination of both. Answering this question will shed new light on the socio-economic implications of this downward trend. Drawing on longitudinal data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we follow seven five-year cohorts born between 1950-54 and 1980-84 and examine their migration behaviour from age 18 to 35 between 1968 and 2019. We establish the relative contribution of changes in the incidence of immobility, one-time migration and repeat migration to the decline in internal migration. We also distinguish between interstate and intercounty migration and further differentiate between return and onward migration. Finally, we use regression-based decomposition analysis to establish whether changes in the incidence of repeat migration and immobility are due to changes in population composition or migration behaviour. Findings in this study are relevant to Europe, where the diversity of internal migration trends remains poorly understood.

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 Presented in Session 51. Recent trends of internal migration