Academic journal article Demographic Research

All Tied Up: Tied Staying and Tied Migration within the United States, 1997 to 2007

Academic journal article Demographic Research

All Tied Up: Tied Staying and Tied Migration within the United States, 1997 to 2007

Article excerpt



The family migration literature presumes that women are cast into the role of the tied migrant. However, clearly identifying tied migrants is a difficult empirical task, since it requires the identification of a counterfactual: who moved but did not want to?


This research develops a unique methodology to directly identify both tied migrants and tied stayers in order to investigate their frequency and determinants.


Using data from the 1997 through 2009 U.S. Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), propensity score matching is used to match married individuals with comparable single individuals to create counterfactual migration behaviors: who moved but would not have moved had they been single (tied migrants) and who did not move but would have moved had they been single (tied stayers).


Tied migration is relatively rare and not limited just to women: rates of tied migration are similar for men and women. However, tied staying is both more common than tied migration and equally experienced by men and women. Consistent with the body of empirical evidence, an analysis of the determinants of tied migration and tied staying demonstrates that family migration decisions are imbued with gender.


Additional research is warranted to validate the unique methodology developed in this paper and to confirm its results. One line of future research should be to examine the effects of tied staying, along with tied migration, on well-being, union stability, employment, and earnings.

1. Introduction

Migration is rarely an individual event. Decisions to move, and their consequences, are usually embedded within the context of the family. According to the 2012 U.S. Current Population Survey at least 94% of all inter-county migration events in the United States occur among individuals who are either members of a family or non-family members who moved for ?family reasons?2. The family dimension of migration is important to recognize as it contains both social and economic dimensions that are frequently ignored in internal migration research. One important aspect of family migration decisions and their consequences is that they are conditioned on the employment and earnings capacity of spouses relative to their gender ideologies (Bielby and Bielby 1992; Bird and Bird 1985; Bonney and Love 1991; Cooke 2008a; Jurges 2006; Wallston, Foster, and Berger 1978). Thus, the family migration literature has traditionally presumed that migrant wives are disproportionately cast into the role of the tied migrant (Cooke 2008b), which in turn contributes to the gender gap in earnings (Cooke et al. 2009).

However, gender role attitudes are slowly becoming more egalitarian (Cotter, Hermsen, and Vanneman 2011), dual-earner families are becoming the norm (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2011), and the number of families in which the wife is the primary earner is increasing (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2011). These trends have several consequences. They imply that married women should be less often cast into the role of the trailing wife and this might have a positive impact on the gender gap in earnings. As well, they suggest an increase in the number of tied stayers (spouses who desire to move but cannot because other family members do not want to move), which may be a contributing factor in the long-term decline in U.S. internal migration rates (Cooke forthcoming-a). In turn, the decline in internal migration rates due to the growing immobility of dual-earner couples may result in the inefficient allocation of labor across regional labor markets, which may then contribute to an increase in regional labor market inequality (Cherry and Tsournos 2001; Cooke forthcoming-b). Thus, far from being an esoteric subfield of migration studies, the changing social and economic context within which family migration decisions are made has wide-ranging impacts. …

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