Migration and Climate Change: Location Choice in Response to Rapid- and Slow-Onset Climate Events

Paper Session

Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017 8:00 AM – 10:00 AM

Swissotel Chicago, Zurich D
Hosted By: American Economic Association
  • Chair: Elena Irwin, Ohio State University

Migration and Climate Variability in Bangladesh

Joyce J. Chen
,
Ohio State University
Valerie Mueller
,
International Food Policy Research Institute
Yuanyuan Jia
,
Ohio State University
Steven Kuo-Hsin Tseng
,
Ohio State University

Abstract

Agriculture in Bangladesh involves substantial environmental risk, and climate change – with global warming, intensified coastal storms, and more variable monsoon cycles – has further amplified this risk. While the population seems quite resilient to these risks, little is known about the demand and capacity for adaptation. We estimate the impact of climate variability on migration using repeated cross-section data from a large-scale, nationally representative vital registration system. We look at the primary indicators known to affect agricultural production, rainfall and temperature. The broad temporal and geographic coverage of our data allow us to take into account both static risk – deviations from mean – and dynamic risk – volatility – that will continue to evolve with climate change. To examine the impact of catastrophic events, we also incorporate satellite data on flooding. And, to better understand the constraints on migration as adaptation, we include a variety of controls for household wealth, socio-economic status, and demographic composition. Finally, we control for long-run differences in climate and climate variability as well as year and location fixed effects to account for differing preferences for risk and migration across time and space.

Heat Exposure and Youth Migration in Central America and the Caribbean

Javier Baez
,
World Bank
German Daniel Caruso
,
World Bank
Valerie Mueller
,
International Food Policy Research Institute
Chiyu Niu
,
University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign

Abstract

Evidence documenting the linkages between migration and climate at regional scale is limited. Knowledge on the matter is particularly important for Central America and the Caribbean, a region of the world characterized by exceptionally high (internal and international) migration rates and substantial exposure to disasters. We link individual-level information from multiple censuses for seven countries with georeferenced climate data at the province level to measure the impact of heat exposure on internal mobility. Our results imply that a 1-standard deviation increase in heat would affect the lives of 7,314 and 1,578 unskilled, young (15-25) women and men, respectively. The total effect is slightly smaller than observed in our previous work which focuses on displacement from droughts and hurricanes, but could increase with climate change. Of notable importance is youth facing heat waves are more likely to respond by moving to urban centers than when exposed to disasters endemic to the region. Additional research is warranted over the welfare implications of these choices in the long term and the interventions available to minimize distress migration.

Asylum Applications and Migration Flows

Anouch Missirian
,
Columbia University
Wolfram Schlenker
,
Columbia University and NBER

Abstract

Throughout history, large waves of migration were induced by weather shocks, in particular droughts. The recent “migration crisis” currently unfolding in Europe has been linked to record droughts in Syria. Unfavorable weather shocks have been shown to worsen economic conditions and increase conflict. To narrow the possible mechanism, we utilize a novel data set that includes binational asylum applications for people suffer persecution between various origin and destination countries, including the year the application was filed. We link asylum applications to other migration data to demonstrate how representative it is of other migration flows. Annual asylum applications respond significantly to temperature shocks in the origin country, but not precipitation shocks.

The Perils of Migration Forecasting in Response to Climate Change

Mark Partridge
,
Ohio State University

Abstract

Mark D. Partridge (a,b,c), Bo Feng (a), and Mark Rembert (a)

The impact of climate change has drawn growing interests from both researchers and policymakers. Yet, relatively little is known with respect to its influence on interregional migration. The surge of extreme weather conditions could lead to the increase of forced migration from coastal to inland regions, which normally follows different pattern than voluntary migration. However, recent migration models tend to predict unrealistic migration trends under climate change in that migration would flow towards the areas most adversely affected. Given the great uncertainty about the magnitude and distribution of severe weather events, it is almost impossible to foresee migration directions by simply extrapolating from the data on how people have responded in the past to climate and weather. For example, weather events will likely be far outside of what has been observed. Other issues include a poor understanding of how climate affects migration in an entirely different structural environment, meaning that we have poor measures of future climate. Unintended consequence of public policies also contributes to the complication of predicting future migration pattern. In this paper, we survey the limitations of existing climate change literature, explore insights of regional economic studies, and provide potential solutions to those issues.

a. AED Economics, The Ohio State University
b. School of Economics, Jinan University, Guangzhou, China
c. Urban Studies, Gran Sasso Science Institute, L’Aquila, Italy
Discussant(s)
Mushfiq Mobarak
,
Yale University
Solomon Hsiang
,
University of California-Berkeley
Dean Yang
,
University of Michigan
David Albouy
,
University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign
JEL Classifications
  • J6 - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers
  • Q5 - Environmental Economics