Migration Networks and Location Decisions: Evidence from U.S. Mass Migration

September 2017

Bryan Stuart and Evan Taylor 

IIEP Working Paper 2017-26

Abstract: This paper examines the effects of birth town migration networks on location decisions. We study over one million long-run location decisions made during two landmark migration episodes by African Americans from the U.S. South and whites from the Great Plains. We develop a new method to estimate the strength of migration networks for each receiving and sending location. Our estimates imply that when one randomly chosen African American moves from a birth town to a destination county, then 1.9 additional black migrants make the same move on average. For white migrants from the Great Plains, the average is only 0.4. Networks were particularly important in connecting black migrants with attractive employment opportunities and played a larger role in less costly moves.

JEL: J61, N32, O15, R23, Z13

Keywords: migration networks, location decisions, social interactions, Great Migration

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