Labor Mobility in a Federal System: The United States
24 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2004
Date Written: March 2004
Those who view Europe as having insufficient geographic mobility often draw a comparison to the United States, where mobility is higher. But the disparity in mobility is not an innate characteristic differentiating European and U.S. labor markets. Rather, mobility rates have fluctuated over time in the United States and in Europe in response to changes in economic conditions, in demographic characteristics, and in socio-legal institutions. In this paper, we first explain why the legal regime in the United States is conducive of mobility. Barriers imposed by the state to deter immigration have long been unlawful and indirect barriers, though subject to less stringent examination, must also pass constitutional muster. Next we review historical trends in geographic mobility, which show that both Europe and the U.S. have experienced dramatic changes in mobility over the last two hundred years and that these changes have occurred roughly in tandem.
Keywords: Geographic mobility, labor mobility, labor law, labor market history
JEL Classification: J61, K31, N30, N31, N33
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