The views, values, beliefs, feelings, and assumptions of the new resident's motivations and expectations were examined and explained. The primary purpose of this research was to identify the motivations of new residents who moved to the Nebraska Panhandle and their satisfaction with the move.




  • Focus Group Participants - New movers to the Panhandle region during 2001 to 2007 self-selected if they wanted to participate by returning a postcard.
  • Focus Group Structure - 78 individuals, ages 21-to 80, participated in 12 focus groups at six sites


  • Participants asked a series of 13 questions in 1 ½ hour interviews. Questions included (Interview Protocol):
    • What attracted you to region?
    • What pushed you away?
  • Interviews coded using Charmaz's grounded theorgy guidelines and AtlasT
  • Debriefing, inter-coder agreement, clarifying bias, member checking and rich thick descriptions were used to ensure data credibility

Proposed Framework

It became evident that there are many reasons the new residents decided to move. One first-time Nebraskan explained, "We developed a formula that was 50% job ’¦ 25% community, 25% school. [This] ’¦ was the first place where all the pieces of the pie seemed to be right." An attraction and retention framework was created to explain the conditions that impacted new residents' decisions to move to the Nebraska Panhandle and the conditions within the community that ultimately impact their likelihood of remaining.

Considering a Move
"Considering a Move" are the causal conditions or pre-existing situations that influenced individuals to begin looking for another location to live. More...

Opportunity to Move
The new residents identified a number of situations that caused them to think about moving to another location. More...

Strategies to Learn About Community
Once the new residents have an opportunity to move to the new community, they then need to determine if they will make the move. More...

Community Image
Context, relative to this study, is the community image new residents are looking for when they move to a rural area. More...

Decision to Move
The first research question, "What motivated the new residents to move to the Nebraska Panhandle?" has been the focus of the findings to this point. More...

Immediate Concerns
The intervening conditions that provided the opportunity or need (job opportunity, moving to be near family or location) to move to the community now impact the causal conditions or immediate concerns that a new resident faces following the move. More...

Moving Challenges
The intervening conditions or moving challenges are those situations that positively or negatively influence a person's feeling of belonging or likelihood of remaining in the community. More...

Strategies to Belong
Actions and strategies used by new residents to learn about their community included newcomer welcome programs, local media and community involvement. More...

Community Image - The Reality
Did the desired community image match the reality? More...

Likelihood of Staying
In response to "What will keep you here?", 25% of the new residents stated that they planned to stay in the community. More...

attraction and retention

Key Findings

Every new resident's experience is unique and at the same time, similar to other new residents. At the foundation of all of these insights are two broad commonalities: 1) the complexity of the relocation decision-making process; and 2) the importance of the new resident's community connection. Historically, the migration literature has focused on one factor such as housing, age or the environment- thus missing the complexity of the relocation decision-making process. Using a constructivist grounded theory, this study strived to develop a broader understanding of the motivations that led new residents to western Nebraska and how likely they will remain.

Key points:

  • A complex set of factors impact the decision to move to a rural community and the decision to remain in the community
  • Community vision influences individuals to move to a community. In addition, the visioning process builds social capital when new residents are a part of the process.
  • Community involvement not only engages new residents, it increases social interaction and community information exchange. These positively impact the building of social capital.
  • When community expectations are not met, disillusionment negatively influences retention.
  • Increasing community involvement and information exchange may be one way to positively influence new residents' long term retention.

Stakeholders often want to know what is more important in the decision-making process - do people move for the job or do they move for quality of life issues? This research supports that people move for the job and for quality of life issues. Employment allows the household the opportunity to move.

Community actions include:

  • Highlight community's quality of life attributes such as climate, available recreation, schools and educational opportunities, location to family and friends and church affiliations.
  • Develop opportunities to connect with the new resident such as comprehensive welcome programs and networking opportunities and community websites.
  • Create a community vision including the ongoing plans and completion of projects.

The framework that emerged can be used by community residents and practitioners when developing attraction and retention strategies. For example, a community may want to explore who are the new residents in your new community? Are people moving primarily for jobs or to the location? What strategies are available for a potential new resident to find relocation information? Once moved, are there adequate services and housing available? What intervening conditions encourage retention? Does your community have a long-term vision? One new resident remarked: "I think as a piece of advice I would say to listen ’¦ things could grow out of conversation, extended conversation like this ’¦ I don't know what the conversation would be like if it were [the community] that listens to itself, not just newcomers, it might discover that there's more desire for change."

Further Explanation of Key Findings