Why Are Power Couples Increasingly Located in Large MSAs?

Janice Compton, Washington University in St. Louis
Robert A. Pollak, Washington University in St. Louis

Using census data, Costa and Kahn (Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2000) document a dramatic increase in the proportion of "power couples"--couples in which both spouses are college graduates--residing in large MSAs. Their explanation is that college educated couples are more likely to face a co-location problem and therefore are more likely to migrate to large MSAs than are other couples. We present three main findings that dispute their hypothesis. First, we show that the proportion of power couples in large MSAs fell between 1990 and 2000. Second, we analyze the dynamic forces that underlie the observed location patterns. We find that marriage and education are more important than couple migration in explaining location trends. Finally, we investigate factors associated with couple migration. We find that the effect of education on couples' migration behavior comes not from the joint educational profile but only from the husband's education.

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Presented in Session 46: North American Labor Markets