DP13485 The missing ingredient: Distance. Internal migration and its long-term economic impact in the United States

Author(s): Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, Viola von Berlepsch
Publication Date: January 2019
Keyword(s): Counties, distance, economic development, internal migration, long-term, US
JEL(s): J61, N11, O15, R23
Programme Areas: International Trade and Regional Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=13485

This paper examines if internal migrants at the turn of the 20th century have influenced the long-term economic development of the counties where they settled over 100 years ago. Using Census microdata from 1880 and 1910, the distance travelled by American-born migrants between birthplace and county of residence is examined to assess its relevance for the economic development of US counties today. The settlement patterns of domestic migrants across the 48 continental states are then linked to current county-level development. Factors influencing both migration at the time and the level of development of the county today are controlled for. The results of the analysis underline the economic importance of internal migration. Counties that attracted American-born migrants more than 100 years ago are significantly richer today. Moreover, distance is crucial for the impact of internal migration on long-term economic development; the larger the distance travelled by domestic migrants, the greater the long-term economic impact on the receiving territories.