Brian Cushing

Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



Regional Research Institute

Document Number



Regional Research Institute


A large body of empirical research has concluded that, at least during the 1950s and 1960s, the effect of welfare benefits on migration differed significantly by racial group, with blacks being attracted by and whites repulsed by areas that provided high welfare benefits. This study revisits the issue of racial differences in attractiveness to interregional differences in welfare benefits, using data from the U.S. Census of Population and a simultaneous equation model of state-to-state migration that accounts for a variety of economic, amenity, and spatial factors. In contrast to most previous empirical work, there is no statistically significant evidence that either origin or destination AFDC benefits affected migration during the 1965-70 period. The analysis indicates that conclusions regarding the influence of interregional differentials in welfare benefits on migration can be very sensitive to specification of the migration model. A carefully specified model estimated using an appropriate econometric methodology, however, will yield robust results. This is critical to understand given the renewed interest in this policy issue as a consequence of the current decentralization of the welfare system.