Cohort and Period Effects in U.S. Migration: How Demographic and Economic Cycles Influence the Migration Schedule



This paper examines the influence of demographic and economic cycles on the migration propensities given in the migration age schedule. It is well known that while the shape or profile of the migration-age relationship has enduring regularity over time and space, its level (or intensity) shows considerable volatility. Recent studies suggest that variations in generation size and economic conditions may systematically influence the levels of the migration schedule. These studies show that large cohorts have notably lower migration rates than small cohorts, mainly because they face more competitive labor markets upon entry into young adulthood. Similarly, migration rates, especially of young adults, have been found to decline during recessionary periods and increase during economic booms. Building on these studies, I examine the influence of generation size on the migration intensities seen in a cohort (longitudinal) migration schedule and that of economic conditions on the intensities of a period (cross-sectional) migration schedule. I further specify a model that incorporates both cohort and period effects in order to understand their relative importance in shaping the migration schedule. Empirical analyses based on Current Population Survey data for the 1949–1993 period reveal that the level of the migration schedule is sensitive to demographic and economic cycles, with the effect of generation size being relatively more influential. The findings call for a more explicit incorporation of cohort and period effects in analyses of migration patterns.