The returns to migration and human capital accumulation pathways. non-metropolitan youth in the school-to-work transition


The school-to-work transition comprises a critical period of human capital development for young people. As school-to-work pathways become increasingly diverse and complex, there is growing evidence that transitions during this period significantly influence individual career trajectories and long-term earning capacities. For non-metropolitan youth, this period of the life course often involves migration to urban centres in the search for better educational and employment opportunities. Drawing on longitudinal data, this paper examines the influence of migration and school-to-work pathways on entry-level wages for non-metropolitan youth in Australia. Our results highlight that migration from non-metropolitan communities to urban centres leads to higher entry-level wages, but these wage gains are not immediate, rather they are realised at a period 3 years post-migration. Individuals remaining in non-metropolitan communities were found to experience pathways that lead to lower wage returns. Furthermore, unobserved attributes, such as motivation and aspirations, were found to be a major factor explaining the higher wage returns achieved by non-metropolitan migrants. Findings have important consequences for policy in their potential to contribute to new evidenced-based policy designed to entice the return of young people to non-metropolitan communities and ameliorate the long-standing net loss of young population from regional areas.

The Annals of Regional Science
Francisco Rowe
Senior Lecturer in Quantitative Human Geography

My research interests include human mobility and migration; economic geography and spatial inequality; computational social science.