Intercounty Variability of Net Migration at Older Ages as a Path-Dependent Process

David L. Brown, Benjamin C. Bolender, Laszlo J. Kulcsar, Nina Glasgow, Scott Sanders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


This article seeks to identify factors associated with the formation and development of nonmetropolitan destinations for older in-migration, thereby explaining why some U.S. counties are more likely than others to be nonmetro retirement destinations. We contend that most nonmetro retirement destinations are established and developed over time through a path-dependent process. When amenities are commodified as recreation and tourism, migration streams tend to be established that ultimately produce sustained in-migration of older persons to selected destination communities. We use data from a variety of official sources and a spatial statistics methodology to examine intercounty variability in net migration rates at ages 60-74. Our findings are consistent with the aforementioned path-dependent development framework. Counties with a long history of population growth, previous experience attracting older in-migrants, attractive natural amenities, and a developed recreation and tourism industry are those most likely to be retirement-age migration destinations. In contrast, agricultural heartland and relatively large population size are associated with lower rates of older in-migration. Older in-migration should be seen as neither a panacea for strapped rural communities nor a "pensions and care issue." Older migrants can be "gray gold," but they can also pose challenges, such as possibly increased demand for public services as they age in place.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-73
Number of pages30
JournalRural Sociology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Intercounty Variability of Net Migration at Older Ages as a Path-Dependent Process'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this