Population Research and Policy Review 20: 229–252, 2001.
© 2001 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Geographic diversity of inter-county migration
in the United States, 1980–1995
STEFAN RAYER & DAVID L. BROWN
Department of Rural Sociology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA
Abstract. This study focuses on the dynamics of internal migration since the 1970s nonmetro-
politan turnaround period. In the ﬁrst part of the study we analyze nationwide and regional net
migration dynamics within an urban hierarchy framework for the three ﬁve-year periods 1980–
85, 1985–90, and 1990–95. The analysis reveals the great diversity in spatial situations across
the United States and provides a basis for evaluating alternative frameworks of population
redistribution trends. We ﬁnd that both the deconcentration and the restructuring perspective
are helpful for understanding the situation in certain regions at particular points in time, but
should not be applied to conceptualize metropolitan-nonmetropolitan population redistribution
for the nation as a whole. The second part of the study identiﬁes the factors associated with the
dynamics of county level migration that are revealed in the descriptive analysis. Using both
residual method and actual migration stream data in a multivariate regression framework, the
study reveals that job-related and socioeconomic well being variables are the most import-
ant and most consistent determinants of inter-county migration differentials regardless of the
direction of net migration exchanges among counties up and down the settlement structure.
Finally, we ﬁnd that factors associated with attracting migrants also frequently increase out-
migration and thus the direction of net migration is typically a function of whether a particular
variable is more strongly associated with in- or out-migration.
Keywords: Internal migration, Population redistribution, Regional demography
Pronounced shifts in population redistribution in the United States have oc-
curred over the last thirty years. Urbanization and metropolitan growth were
the dominant forces shaping population redistribution until around 1970.
The 1970s then witnessed a major trend reversal, a ‘rural renaissance’ or
‘nonmetropolitan turnaround’, in which the nonmetro areas experienced net
in-migration for the ﬁrst time in this century. This turnaround, however, was
somewhat short-lived in that during the 1980s population growth due to
net in-migration shifted back to metropolitan territory. The current decade
is characterized by nonmetropolitan growth once again, though at a lower
scale than during the 1970s (Fuguitt & Beale 1995; Johnson & Beale 1994).
Recently, much discussion has focused on whether the 1970s indicated the