Posted by: Josh Lehner | February 2, 2016

Young College Graduate Migration by State

Last week our office issued a new research report on migration into Oregon among young college graduates.  These trends matters for a regional economy for at least two key reasons.

First, most migrants are in their root-setting years (25-34 years old). From the report:

One’s mid-20s through their mid-30s represents a time when most people settle down, begin their careers in earnest, get married, buy a house and have kids. This age group is also vital for longer run economic growth. Once a regional economy is able to attract such workers, they rarely leave, as migration rates decline considerably as an individual ages into mid-life. As such, a place like Oregon is able to grow its working age population through migration and raise the productive capacity of the regional economy.

Second, employment prospects are better for higher degrees of educational attainment. In the report, we divided the population into two nearly equally sized groups based on their major. One group consisted of STEM+ degrees, referring to science, technology, engineering, math plus business or health degrees. The second group was all other degrees – communication, education, liberal arts and the like. From the report:

College graduates have better labor market outcomes than those with less formal schooling. At each step along the educational attainment spectrum, an individual has a higher rate of labor force participation, a higher rate of being employed (and lower rate of unemployment) and higher average wages. STEM+ degree holders even more so than their college graduate counterparts in other fields.

The map below shows 2014 STEM+ migration rates across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This map shows where young college graduates with scientific, technical or medical degrees are moving to, relative to the overall young working age population. The groupings are nearly perfect quartiles, but based on how the data lines up. The top group consists of 11 states plus D.C., the second group 15 states, the third group 11 states, while 13 states saw net out-migration among young college graduates holding such degrees.


The scatter plot below shows migration rates across all states for 2014 but keeping the distinction between STEM+ degrees and all other fields of study. The equal value line is show in blue, indicating the migration rate among each degree grouping is the same. A state like Oregon sees nearly identical migration rates for all degree types, albeit skewing slightly more toward the scientific, technical and medical fields. However, there are a handful of state — California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Texas and Virginia — that see strong STEM+ gains but considerably slower gains in all other degrees, or even small losses. (Previously our office did a similar analysis for the largest MSAs.)


Finally, another reason these trends matter for a regional economy is the type of jobs being created and filled. As the report highlights, “STEM+ graduates have the highest rate of being employed in degree jobs. This category includes all individual occupations that require at least a Bachelor’s degree or more for an entry-level hire, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.” The Federal Reserve Bank of New York calls these college jobs and just launched a neat interactive feature for U.S. level data. While the first graph below is Oregon-specific, this overall pattern holds nationally and here in the Pacific Northwest as shown in the second graph.


This breakdown into the type of job young college graduates hold is a key reason that average wages are higher for STEM+ degree holders. On the New York Fed site, they do highlight some historical trends in the type of jobs held by young graduates which is quite interesting, along with a detailed table of unemployment, underemployment and average wages by college major. Our office’s work focusing on just the Pacific Northwest does line up with their national results.


  1. […] Young College Graduate Migration by State – Oregon Office of Economic Analysis […]

  2. […] Oregon sees the largest influx of new residents among the 20- and 30-somethings. These so-called root-setting years are very important for longer-run economic growth. As our office’s report details, many, and usually most of these young migrants have college degrees. In fact a majority have scientific, technical or medical degrees. See here for how Oregon’s young college migration trends compare with other states. […]

  3. […] Finally, student loans are one type of household debt that continues to grow. Oregon has a larger share of student loans than the typical state, however this is likely due to our migration trends. Oregon is a top destination for young college graduates. […]

  4. […] patterns across the country among young college grads. See our office’s previous report and state comparison for more background. This topic is extremely important when it comes to future economic growth. […]

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