Environmental Degradation and Migration
University of Bern - Department of Economics
Lena M. Schaffer
ETH Zurich - Center for Comparative and International Studies
APSA 2012 Annual Meeting Paper
The argument that environmental degradation is an important driving force of migration has experienced a strong revival in the climate change context. While various studies predict large environmental migration flows due to climate change and other environmental stressors, the ex post empirical evidence for such migration is very patchy at best. We contribute to the emerging empirical literature in this field by focusing on the micro-level. We examine how and why different types of environmental conditions may lead to internal migration. The analysis relies on survey data for both migrants and non-migrants in 13 countries. The results suggest that both sudden-onset and long term environmental events, such as floods and droughts, have no significant effect on internal migration. In contrast, individual perceptions of negative environmental conditions can motivate people to move. We also find that people tend to respond to long-term environmental problems with adaptation, rather than migration. These findings indicate that different types of environmental problems – notably, natural hazards vs. gradual environmental degradation – can create different incentives for people to migrate or stay.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 28
Keywords: Environmental degradation, migration, micro-level analysisworking papers series
Date posted: July 15, 2012 ; Last revised: August 16, 2012
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