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In the United States, rural economic development has been hindered due to a rural “brain drain”: the disproportionate outmigration of educated young adults from non-metropolitan areas. This outflow has been of particular concern because it may negatively impact labor markets and economic vitality of non-metropolitan areas. Theoretically, migration is typically viewed in an economic framework as a decision driven by differences in the present value of lifetime earnings in the location of origin and that in other regions, net of moving costs. Typically, studies focusing on education find that educated individuals are more likely to migrate, but are unable to establish whether individuals migrate because they can find higher returns to education elsewhere or whether they move in search of educational opportunities and do not come back. In this paper, we find that education increases the propensity to migrate, but the decision is, to a large extent, explained by searching for educational opportunities.


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