Internal Mobility: The Greater Responsiveness of Foreign-Born to Economic Conditions

Gaetano Basso
Giovanni Peri
Published in
Journal of Economic Perspectives
Publication Date


In this article, we review the internal geographic mobility of immigrants and natives in the United States in the recent decades, with a focus on the period since 2000. We confirm a continuing secular decline in mobility already pointed out by the existing literature, and we show that it persisted in the post great recession period. We then focus on foreign-born and establish that, on average, they did not have total mobility rates higher than that of natives. However, their mobility response to local economic conditions was stronger than the response of natives in the period from 1980 to 2017. A review of recent research reveals that the higher elasticity of mobility of immigrants to economic conditions is a combination of lower sensitivity to local prices, higher propensity to move in the early years after immigration, and strong economic success of cities that were immigrant enclaves in the 1980s.

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