Labor Mobility in a Federal System: The United States in Comparative Perspective.

Sanford M. Jacoby, Matthew W. Finkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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 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 200 years and that these changes have occurred roughly in tandem.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)313-337
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Journal of Comparative Labour Law & Industrial Relations
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2004


  • Labor mobility
  • Labor market
  • Geographic mobility
  • United States
  • Europe


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