The impact of school characteristics on return migration
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT REQUEST OF AUTHOR.] Brain drain, the out-migration of the college educated especially from rural areas, poses a serious threat to the economic viability of many rural communities. This research arose from a growing concern from community residents and policy makers for supporting schools in communities that are losing their college educated population. If students from high quality schools are migrating out of the area, the community does not receive a return on their investment. This leads some to question the necessity of a local high quality school. An alternative view, following Tiebout's public choice theory, sees high quality schools as an amenity that can attract new residents into the area or former residents back. The research explores the possible impact of school characteristics on return migration. This research hypothesizes that a positive school experience can increase return migration flows of college graduates and decrease the impact of out-migration. The study uses the National Educational Longitudinal Survey (NELS:88-00) data set to evaluate a student's decision to return to their local area after graduating from college based on personal, place and school characteristics. The data set is a longitudinal study of 8th graders from 1988 to 2000, when they are twenty-six years old. The data also provide zip code and census data for locations of the students' high school, college and 2000 residence. This allows distance to be measured between these three migration points using latitude and longitude coordinates. In addition, the data provide information about the perception a student has regarding their high school experience and school environment. These variables are explored as possible school quality indicators. A random utility model is used to evaluate a student's choice to return to their local community or migrate elsewhere. The analysis found evidence of return migration to rural areas. When controlling for personal and place characteristics, school characteristics were less likely to impact return migration. It is hoped that this research will provide insight into understanding the causes of migration patterns of college-educated rural youth.
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