Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Laura O. Taylor - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Paula E. Stephan

Third Advisor

Dr. Paul M. Jakus

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Erdal Tekin


Location-specific amenities have been shown to play an increasingly important role in individual migration decisions. The role certain amenities play in the location decisions of the highly educated may be the cause of persistent regional differences in certain types of human capital, and consequently in regional productivity. This dissertation examines the determinants of the location decisions of new Ph.D. recipients in science and engineering (S&E). A discrete choice random utility model of the city location decisions of new Ph.D.s is developed to estimate preferences for city attributes as well as willingness to pay for improved amenity quality. By estimating the value Ph.D.s place on various urban amenities, the results of this research help inform policymakers as to their ability (or inability) to attract and retain highly educated workers to their region through public investment in amenity quality. To link the choice of city with the geographic attributes of cities, a unique micro dataset is used which reports the planned employment city location of S&E Ph.D. recipients in the U.S. at the time of degree. The primary data comes from the 1997-1999 Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED), administered by Science Resources Statistics of the National Science Foundation. The SED is given to all new doctorate recipients in the U.S. at or near the time of degree, and has a response rate over 90%. The application focuses on approximately 23,000 new Ph.D.s who received their degree in one of twelve S&E fields during the period 1997-1999, and who had made a definite commitment to an employer in a known U.S. metropolitan area. The results consistently suggest that natural amenities, such as summer or winter temperatures, play a larger role in the location decisions of new S&E Ph.D.s than reproducible amenities, such as crime or air quality. The implication is that policymakers have only a limited ability to improve the composition of their workforce through amenity investment. The results also indicate that the influence of amenities on location choice is related to a number of observable characteristics such as age, race, marital status, citizenship, and Ph.D.s’ previous migration behavior.


Included in

Economics Commons