Relative Deprivation and Internal Migration in the United States: A Comparison of Black and White Men

Chenoa A. Flippen, University of Pennsylvania

While the link between geographic and social mobility has long been a cornerstone of sociological approaches to migration, recent research has cast doubt on the economic returns to internal U.S. migration. Moreover, there are important racial disparities in prevailing population movements, with blacks significantly more likely than whites to engage in southern migration, that remain poorly understood. This paper, which draws on data from the 2000 census, reappraises the link between migration and social mobility by taking relative deprivation into consideration. Our findings lend new insight into the theoretical and stratification implications of growing racial disparities in southern migration patterns; we show that while both blacks and whites who move from north to south generally average lower absolute incomes than their sedentary northern peers, they enjoy significantly higher relative social position. Moreover, the relative “gains” to migration are substantially larger for blacks than whites. The opposite obtains for south-north migration.

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Presented in Session 167: Internal Migration