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Abstract

This study tests whether evidence supports the hypothesis that rural immigrant populations are more sensitive to relative returns to human capital and living costs will be more elastic than those of native-born citizens. An empirically tractable model of incentive to migrate is developed following work of Huang et al (2001). The model is tested using Census data from 1950-1990 for a sample of rural counties from 18 Midwest and South central states. Preliminary results show that residential decisions of the rural foreign-born population are more sensitive to relative returns to human capital and relative costs of living than are native-born populations. Consequently, rural areas can attract immigrants if they offer earnings opportunities relative to housing costs that are superior to urban markets. Fears that immigrants will form a pocket of rural unemployed appear to be unfounded--immigrants will leave if rural job opportunities are not present.

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