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Students good at maths more likely to migrate


High school students who performed well academically and completed higher levels of maths and also had a greater sense of control of their future were more likely to migrate and work in labour markets with larger shares of college-educated workers, a study has revealed.

The findings showed that students who achieved more academically in high school — as indicated by their test scores, their grade points average (GPA), and took advanced maths coursework — were all more likely to migrate to work.

In addition, people’s internal locus of control, or the extent to which they believe to control their own destiny, was one predictor of who moved out to work.

Those ranked in the 68th percentile of locus of control were 3 per cent more likely to move than those with average (50th percentile) levels of locus of control.

For example, people who performed in the 68th percentile of the math achievement test were 2.3 per cent more likely to move than those at the 50th percentile.

Having a GPA in the 68th percentile increased the probability of moving by 2.5 per cent points over having an average GPA.

Students who completed advanced mathematics were 6.2 per cent more likely to move than those who only completed algebra 2, who were 4.2 per cent more likely to move than the ones who completed neither algebra 2 nor advanced mathematics.

"Data showed that some of the effects of academic preparation on moving were due to students attending colleges — some first moved to attend college," said lead-author Chandra Muller, Professor and Research Associate at the University of Texas at Austin, US.

"Although the data do not allow us to establish whether early skills and education cause migration and living in a labour market with a better economy, the evidence is consistent with the possibility," Muller added.

Migration shapes the national landscape — sometimes at the expense of equality of opportunity across labour markets.

"Innovative" labour-markets with higher shares of college-educated workers expand due to economic growth and technological innovation and attract even more highly skilled workers, leaving other labour-markets behind, the researchers said.

"The uneven expansion of high-skilled jobs creates geographic inequalities in the workforce opportunities and differential opportunities for upward social mobility across generations," Muller noted.

For the study, the team analysed the evolution of spatial inequality by examining the role of high school curriculum and performance in an individual’s decision to move by midlife.

The researchers used data from the High School and Beyond sophomore cohort — a nationally representative sample of 14,825 sophomores in 1,015 US high schools.

In the sample, 36 per cent of people moved across labour markets between high school and midlife, and they migrated an average distance of 676 miles. 


The study was presented at the ongoing 11th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA), in Seattle.