Climate Change, Crop Yields, and Internal Migration in the United States

43 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2012 Last revised: 13 Dec 2013

See all articles by Shuaizhang Feng

Shuaizhang Feng

Shanghai University of Finance and Economics - Department of Economics; Princeton University; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Michael Oppenheimer

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

Wolfram Schlenker

Columbia University - School of International & Public Affairs (SIPA)

Date Written: January 2012

Abstract

We investigate the link between agricultural productivity and net migration in the United States using a county-level panel for the most recent period of 1970-2009. In rural counties of the Corn Belt, we find a statistically significant relationship between changes in net outmigration and climate-driven changes in crop yields, with an estimated semi-elasticity of about -0.17, i.e., a 1% decrease in yields leads to a 0.17% net reduction of the population through migration. This effect is primarily driven by young adults. We do not detect a response for senior citizens, nor for the general population in eastern counties outside the Corn Belt. Applying this semi-elasticity to predicted yield changes under the B2 scenario of the Hadley III model, we project that, holding other factors constant, climate change would on average induce 3.7% of the adult population (ages 15-59) to leave rural counties of the Corn Belt in the medium term (2020-2049) compared to the 1960-1989 baseline, with the possibility of a much larger migration response in the long term (2077-2099). Since there is uncertainty about future warming, we also present projections for a range of uniform climate change scenarios in temperature or precipitation.

Suggested Citation

Feng, Shuaizhang and Oppenheimer, Michael and Schlenker, Wolfram, Climate Change, Crop Yields, and Internal Migration in the United States (January 2012). NBER Working Paper No. w17734. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1980583

Shuaizhang Feng (Contact Author)

Shanghai University of Finance and Economics - Department of Economics ( email )

777 Guoding Road
Shanghai, AK Shanghai 200433
China

Princeton University

22 Chambers Street
Princeton, NJ 08544-0708
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Michael Oppenheimer

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs ( email )

Department of Geosciences
Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States
+1 609-258-2338 (Phone)

Wolfram Schlenker

Columbia University - School of International & Public Affairs (SIPA) ( email )

420 West 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States
2128541806 (Phone)

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