Theses and Dissertations


Xuan Zhou

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Boyd, Robert L.

Committee Member

Peterson, Lindsey P.

Committee Member

Ralston, Margaret L.

Committee Member

Barranco, Raymond Edward

Committee Member

Ambinakudige, Shrinidhi S.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Sociology


Studying the spatial distribution and redistribution of population has long been a major concern of demography, because population changes can reflect deep and massive social changes. For decades, the major population change was the moving of people from rural to urban regions. However, with the advancement of transportation and information technology, many new regions have become more attractive to people, such as small and new metropolitan, nonmetropolitan, suburban, and rural areas. Traditional migration and population redistribution studies emphasize economic and social factors. Relatively little attention is paid to how natural amenities and transportation affect changes of population size and net migration. Using data from various sources, such as the U.S. Census Bureau, National Land Cover Database, United States Department of Agriculture, National Transportation Atlas Database, and Air Carrier Activity Information System, this dissertation examines the roles of natural amenities and transportation in explaining population change and the net migration rate from 2000 to 2010 in the United States at the county level. Spatial regression models are used to treat spatial dependence and investigate relationships between variables and their neighboring values. Results show that population growth is higher in counties with higher natural-amenity-ranking values, regardless of whether those counties are in metropolitan or nonmetropolitan areas. However, natural-amenity-ranking values only positively affect net migration rates in nonmetropolitan counties. Forest coverage only positively affects population change and the net migration rate in nonmetropolitan counties. Land developability is negatively associated with population change in nonmetropolitan counties. Man-made amenities are negatively associated with population change and the net migration rate in both metropolitan and nonmetropolitan counties. Population growth and the net migration rate are higher in counties characterized by greater airport accessibility. Highway density is positively associated with population change in nonmetropolitan counties only. This dissertation illustrates the importance of natural amenities, forest coverage, land developability, highway density, and airport accessibility as correlates of population growth in America, especially in nonmetropolitan counties.