Journal Article

Frozen in place: Net migration in sub-national areas of the United States in the era of the Great Recession

The recent Great Recession represents the largest economic displacement since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The economic shocks from the Great Recession profoundly influenced US demographic trends, including the geographic mobility of the nation’s population. We examine US migration patterns before, during, and after this recession in both rural and urban areas and find stark reversals in trends. Many areas with histories of net migration loss prior to the recession experienced smaller losses or migration gains during the recession. In contrast, areas with histories of significant migration gain generally experienced smaller gains or lost migrants during the recession. We also find systematic spatial differences in net migration along place-based dimensions of region and the rural/urban continuum; regional advantages for the South and West were lost, and the historically disadvantaged large metro cores and non-metro counties that are not adjacent to metro areas became relatively more advantaged.

Published in a peer-reviewed journal of the Population Council. Kenneth M. Johnson is Professor, Department of Sociology and Senior Demographer, Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire, Durham. Katherine J. Curtis is Associate Professor, Department of Community and Environmental Sociology and Director, Applied Population Laboratory, University of Wisconsin-Madison. David Egan-Robertson is Demographer, Applied Population Laboratory, University of Wisconsin-Madison.