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A general global precept is that agglomeration forces lead to migration from rural to urban areas. Yet, for much of the period since the early 1970s, more people moved from metro to nonmetro U.S. counties. The underlying causes of this pattern have changed over time with economic shocks and changing household preferences. For instance, the post 2000 period has seen a significant decline in domestic migration rates, significant increase in commodity prices that favor rural areas, and potential changes in the valuation of natural amenities that would affect migration. This study investigates the determinants of U.S. gross migration from metro to nonmetro counties and nonmetro to metro counties for the 1995-2000 and 2005-2009 periods in order to compare the differences in rural to urban and urban to rural migration as well as compare the 1990s to the 2005 to 2009 periods. The paper uses (1) extensive county-to-county migration flows and (2) uses the utility maximization theory that extends the framework of discrete choice model. The results show that population density, distance to urban areas, industry mix employment growth, natural amenities, and percent of older people are key factors underlying these migration patterns. We also find a slight fading of effects of natural amenities and population density and slight increase in the effects of wage and employment growth during 2005 to 2009 period.


International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series #1426, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.

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