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"Using Historical Census Data to Reveal Migration Patterns of the Young, Single, and College Educated"

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Between 1965 and 2000, the young, single, and college-educated population in the United States—the “YSCE” population—migrated in patterns that were often at odds with those of other segments of the nation’s population.

In general, larger metropolitan statistical areas were more likely to have consistent net in-migration of the YSCE population, while smaller metros, micropolitan statistical areas, and areas outside of metros and micros were more likely to experience YSCE net out-migration.  These findings were often opposite those for the total population. Within metro areas, migration to principal cities also was a hallmark of the YSCE population.

Other findings reported in the recently released Population Division working paper Historical Migration of the Young, Single, and College Educated: 1965 to 2000, authored by Justyna Goworowska and Todd Gardner, included the fact that less than one-fifth of states saw consistent net in-migration of the YSCE population during that period.  About half of states, on the other hand, experienced consistent net out-migration of the group.

The working paper’s focus on migration of the YSCE population, a group with outsized human capital and potential impact on population growth, was possible thanks to the Census Bureau’s Historical Census Files Project. That project has recovered all available microdata from the 1960, 1970, and 1980 censuses, and it is in the process of harmonizing these files with ones from the 1990 and 2000 censuses.

The central outcome of the historical files project is a time series of anonymized historical decennial census microdata files available to researchers within the Census Bureau as well as to those with approved projects through the Census Bureau’s national network of secure Research Data Centers.

An eventual project goal is to extend the historical microdata holdings to earlier censuses, but at present the full range of data gathered from the “long form” of five consecutive censuses, along with documentation, is at hand for researchers with approved projects.  In its analysis of migration patterns of the YSCE population, the working paper has shed light on only one of a long list of potential subjects that would lend themselves to further study with the historical microdata series.

James Fitzsimmons, Assistant Division Chief, Population Division


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