Only on the Margins: Using Linked IRS Administrative and Census Survey Records to Measure the Economic Returns to Migration for Married Men and Women in the United States

Thomas Foster , U.S. Census Bureau
Mark Ellis, University of Washington, Seattle
Lee Fiorio, University of Washington, Seattle

This paper leverages linked IRS tax records from 2005 through 2014 and Census Bureau microdata to examine whether and how the relative earnings of husbands and wives influence their propensity to migrate across state lines and, in turn, how interstate migration influences the earnings of husbands and wives. In particular, we attempt to identify the marginal micro and macroeconomic circumstances in which the returns to interstate migration favor wives rather than husbands. To do this, we analyze interstate migration patterns and earnings returns in periods before, during, and after the Great Recession and as a function of the relative earnings of husbands and wives. Broadly speaking, our results support the gender role theory of migration, such that migration is most likely to occur when husbands are sole-earners and returns accrue primarily to husbands at the expense of their wives’ earnings.

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 Presented in Session 151. Gender and Migration