Modeling commuter flows among local labor markets in Minnesota, 1970-1990


Elvin Wyly , John Adams , Melissa Loughlin

July 1994

Report no. Mn/DOT 1994-27

Between 1970 and 1990 the share of Minnesota commuters working outside their county of residence increased from 18 to 29 percent. This study analyzes this trend by examining commuter flows among labor markets in a 120-county study area encompassing Minnesota and counties in adjacent states.

A series of maps and statistical models relate commuter flows to changes in demographic and employment conditions over the past two decades. Commuter flows have strengthened since 1970, becoming more important in declining rural counties as well as growing suburban and exurban labor markets. Longer work journeys in declining rural areas appear to reflect individual coping strategies, as workers search farther afield for opportunities in a regional labor market undergoing a geographic transformation. For most types of jobs, employment growth is dispersing outward from metropolitan cores, while in non-metro areas jobs are consolidated into widely-spaced regional centers. These trends have created a network of diffuse labor markets in which commuter flows link widely-scattered communities of labor deficits to areas with labor surplus, in patterns too complex to be modeled solely in terms of aggregate population and housing variables.

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