Volume 32 - Article 38 | Pages 1065–1080  

Migration signatures across the decades: Net migration by age in U.S. counties, 1950-2010

By Kenneth M. Johnson, Richelle L. Winkler


Background: Migration is the primary population redistribution process in the United States. Selective migration by age, race/ethnic group, and spatial location governs population integration, affects community and economic development, contributes to land use change, and structures service needs.

Objective: Delineate historical net migration patterns by age, race/ethnic, and rural-urban dimensions for United States counties.

Methods: Net migration rates by age for all US counties are aggregated from 1950−2010, summarized by rural-urban location and compared to explore differential race/ethnic patterns of age-specific net migration over time.

Results: We identify distinct age-specific net migration ‘signatures’ that are consistent over time within county types, but different by rural-urban location and race/ethnic group. There is evidence of moderate population deconcentration and diminished racial segregation between 1990 and 2010. This includes a net outflow of Blacks from large urban core counties to suburban and smaller metropolitan counties, continued Hispanic deconcentration, and a slowdown in White counterurbanization.

Conclusions: This paper contributes to a fuller understanding of the complex patterns of migration that have redistributed the U.S. population over the past six decades. It documents the variability in county age-specific net migration patterns both temporally and spatially, as well as the longitudinal consistency in migration signatures among county types and race/ethnic groups.

Author's Affiliation

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