Compulsory schooling increases internal migration, Rauscher finds

April 8, 2021

In a new article in Population Research and Policy Review, PSTC sociologist Emily Rauscher and co-investigator Byeongdon Oh of the University of Kansas examine nearly 100 years of Census data to understand the influence of compulsory schooling laws on migration within the United States.

Rauscher and Oh used 1860–1950 Census data from states with differing compulsory schooling laws to evaluate the relationship between education and migration, finding that those required to attend school were more likely to leave their state of birth.

“Migration research often finds selection into migration among those with more education,” Rauscher noted. “But economic opportunities or family considerations are often thought to drive migration decisions. We consider education as a potential independent influence on migration. We compare those who were immediately on either side of the compulsory schooling age cutoff and find that those required to attend school were more likely to move to another state. Education increased opportunities for young people, and one way it did this was by encouraging migration.” 

The researchers also found that effects of compulsory schooling were stronger among men in states with low occupational status scores, noting that education encouraged migration out of states with limited occupational opportunities.

“Compulsory schooling had important social and individual effects, but it would have had stronger effects if the laws had been funded adequately,” Rauscher added. 

Rauscher continues to investigate how education policies affect students and families. “My current research examines effects of school funding— particularly how benefits of funding vary by student background,” she shared.