Migration and the Migrant in Major U.S. Metropolitan Areas during America's 'Great Recession'




Christopher, Steven

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This dissertation explores the nature of the migrant and migration within the context of the recent economic downturn in the U.S. Because most migration is rooted in economics--that is, the migrant expects a positive net economic return for the cost/investment of migrating--many questions of context appear in light of the `Great Recession.' Research is performed in four complementary, though separate, areas of research: migration trends for 2006-2010, the spatial variation of migration distance decay, the employment niches of U.S. immigrants, and the impact of the U.S. foreign-born population on domestic labor and economic growth. Investigating migration trends, it is shown that the demographic variables linked to migration during the 2006-2010 period are in line with traditional migration theory, but that metropolitan out-migration may operate under a different set of norms than overall migration. Analysis also reveals spatial clusters throughout the United States of high and low out-migration rates. This research presents a novel method for identifying the elements of attraction for migrants in destination cities. Using a two-stage regression approach, destination-specific distance-decay parameters (which are controlled for spatial structure) are regressed against socioeconomic variables describing each destination. Analysis demonstrates that unemployment, diversity, education, industry, and climate are significant pull factors, and are directly tied to the distance decay coefficients. This research also presents a novel method for measuring immigrant economic clustering using the Niche Index, a measure of the propensity of an immigrant group to form niches. The spatial distribution of niches is also investigated. It is shown that immigrant groups consistently form niches in the same industries across space, but the propensity to form niches is highly variable across space. Additionally, propensity to niche is shown to be driven by immigrant group population, metropolitan population, unemployment change, and English proficiency. Lastly, this research reveals cities with larger proportions of foreign-born residents had native-born workers who fared worse over the course of the recession: they experienced greater unemployment growth, less income growth, and an expansion of poverty. Higher education is also significantly correlated with improved outcomes for native-born workers during a recession, while metropolitan accessibility is correlated with poorer outcomes, likely due to inter-city competition for jobs. These four research components contribute to our understanding of the geography, demographics, economics, and sociology of migration, and how migration-related impacts varied from convention during the Great Recession.



Geography, Economics, Migration, Mobility, Niches, Spatial interaction model