Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access

Human Capital Theory and Internal Migration: Do Average Outcomes Distort Our View of Migrant Motives?

Martin Korpi, William A.V. Clark


By modelling the distribution of percentage income gains for movers in Sweden, using multinomial logistic regression, this paper shows that those receiving large pecuniary returns from migration are primarily those moving to the larger metropolitan areas and those with higher education, and that there is much more variability in income gains than what is often assumed in models of average gains to migration. This suggests that human capital models of internal migration often overemphasize the job and income motive for moving, and fail to explore where and when human capital motivated migration occurs.


migration; human capital; labor mobility; urban rural

Full Text:



Berger, M.C., Blomquist, G.C. (1992). Mobility and destination in migration decisions: The roles of earnings, quality of life, and housing prices. Journal of Housing Economics 2, 37-59

Blackburn, M.L. (2010). The Impact of Internal Migration on Married Couples' Earnings in Britain. Economica 77, 584-603

Böheim, R., Taylor, M.P. (2007). From the dark end of the street to the bright side of the road? The wage returns to migration in Britain. Labour Economics 14, 99-117

Cassarino, J.-P. (2004). Theorising return migration: The conceptual approach to return migrants revisited. International Journal on Multicultural Societies (IJMS) 6, 253-279

Chen, Y., Rosenthal, S.S. (2008). Local amenities and life-cycle migration: Do people move for jobs or fun? Journal of Urban Economics 64, 519-537

De Haas, H. (2010). Migration and development: a theoretical perspective. International migration review 44, 227-264

Farber, H.S. (1994). The Analysis of Interfirm Worker Mobility. Journal of Labor Economics 12, 554-93

Glaeser, E.L., Kolko, J., Saiz, A. (2001). Consumer city. Journal of economic geography 1, 27-50

Harris, J.R., Todaro, M.P. (1970). Migration, unemployment and development: a two-sector analysis. The American economic review, 126-142

Hicks, J.R. (1932). The theory of wages. London: MacMillan.

Iacus, S.M., King, G., Porro, G. (2011a). Causal inference without balance checking: Coarsened exact matching. Political analysis, mpr013

Iacus, S.M., King, G., Porro, G. (2011b). Multivariate matching methods that are monotonic imbalance bounding. Journal of the American Statistical Association 106, 345-361

Kan, K. (1999). Expected and unexpected residential mobility. Journal of Urban Economics 45, 72-96

Khwaja, Y. (2002). Should I stay or should I go? Migration under uncertainty: a real options approach. Public Policy Discussion Papers, No. 02-10). Economics and Finance Section, School of Social Sciences, Brunel University.

King, G., Nielsen, R. (2016). Why Propensity Scores Should Not Be Used for Matching. Available at: Accessed 10/12/2016.

Korpi, M., Clark, W.A., Malmberg, B. (2011). The urban hierarchy and domestic migration: the interaction of internal migration, disposable income and the cost of living, Sweden 1993–2002. Journal of Economic Geography 11, 1051-1077

Maré, D.C., Timmins, J.C. (2003). Moving to jobs? Motu Economic and Public Policy Research Trust Motu Working Paper 2003/07. Availabel at: profile/Jason_Timmins/publication/23746604_Moving_to_Jobs/links/552592190cf24b822b4055c3.pdf. Accessed: 10/12/2016.

Morrison, P.S., Clark, W.A.V. (2011). Internal migration and employment: macro flows and micro motives. Environment and Planning-Part A 43, 1948

Nakosteen, R.A., Westerlund, O. (2004). The effects of regional migration on gross income of labour in Sweden. Papers in Regional Science 83, 581-595

Newbold, K.B. (1996). Income, self-selection, and return and onward interprovincial migration in Canada. Environment and Planning A 28, 1019-1034

Newbold, K.B., Brown, W.M. (2012). Testing and extending the escalator hypothesis: does the pattern of post-migration income gains in Toronto suggest productivity and/or learning effects? Urban Studies 49, 3447-3465

Niedomysl, T. (2011). How migration motives change over migration distance: evidence on variation across socio-economic and demographic groups. Regional Studies 45, 843-855

Rodgers, J.R., Rodgers, J.L. (2000). The effect of geographic mobility on male labor-force participants in the United States. Journal of Labor Research 21, 117-132

Sjaastad, L.A. (1962). The costs and returns of human migration. The journal of political economy, 80-93

Statistics Sweden (2003). Regionala indelningar i Sverige. Statistics Sweden.

Withers, S.D., Clark, W.A. (2006). Housing costs and the geography of family migration outcomes. Population, Space and Place 12, 273-289

Yankow, J.J. (1999). The wage dynamics of internal migration within the United States. Eastern Economic Journal, 265-278

Yankow, J.J. (2003). Migration, job change, and wage growth: a new perspective on the pecuniary return to geographic mobility. Journal of Regional Science 43, 483-516


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Transnational Press London

Copyright © 2003-2018 Migration Letters / Transnational Press London | All rights reserved | Contact Us