Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2003


Published in Great Plains Research 13 (Fall 2003): 231-52. Copyright © 2003 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Used by permission.


The depopulation of the Great Plains continues to draw the attention of rural scholars. However, a number of aspects of migration in the region remain poorly understood. For example, what differences exist among migrants in terms of their economic characteristics? Recent research shows that there is tremendous variability in the amount of income each migrant brings to or takes from a region. Using county-level Internal Revenue Service data for migration flows between 1995 and 1998, we explore the spatial patterns of income and population migration, while contrasting the income flows of in-migrants versus out-migrants. The results show that income flows out of the Great Plains exceed what might be expected given the pattern of net out-migration, and that many of the migration flows into the region may be reinforcing pockets of poverty. These findings should concern local officials worried about preserving public and private services in rural areas in the face of a declining population and tax base.