College Graduates, Local Retailers, and Community Belonging in the United States

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How do communities retain their highly educated residents? Do local retailers play a role? This study addresses these questions using confidential U.S. census data on locally-oriented retail employment and county-level public-use files. Hierarchical linear modeling is employed to test hypotheses derived from prior research on civic community and migration. The results confirm that state-level local retail employment buffers the extent to which county-level college graduation is associated with county nonmigration. This finding is consistent with civic community theory, suggesting that locally-oriented retailers are a valuable resource for promoting residential stability.