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New Article: Gone with the wind: International migration

Highlights

  • This paper adds to the literature on the determinants of international migration.
  • Authors construct a panel data set with 16 destination and 198 origin countries from 1980 to 2015.
  • Climate change is a more important driver than income and political freedom at origin together.
  • The dynamic response of migration is very different across shocks to different driving forces.
  • Their findings add to the discussion about the effects of climate shocks on mobility and the concept of trapped population.

Abstract:

This paper adds to the literature on the determinants of international migration. First, the authors offer a joint analysis of the driving forces of migration capturing year-to-year variations and long-run effects. Second, they analyze the dynamic response of migration to shocks to its determinants.

They start by presenting a theoretical model that allows us to model migration as an augmented gravity equation. Then they construct a rich panel data set with 16 destination and 198 origin countries between 1980 and 2015. The authors find that climate variables are important drivers of migration flows in our sample.

They then estimate a panel vectorautoregressive model showing that the dynamic response of migration is very different across shocks to different driving forces. These findings add to the discussion about the effects of climate shocks on mobility and the concept of trapped population. Their findings carry implications for national and international immigration policies.

Further reading from SciDevNet: Climate now biggest driver of migration, study finds.

Each 10 per cent increase in temperature in an origin country caused an increase of 3 per cent in migration from that country to the 16 destination countries, which included Australia, Italy, Spain and Germany.

The study, published last month in the journal Global and Planetary Change, also found that this migration happens in stages.

Dennis Wesselbaum, the lead researcher and an economist at the Otago Business School, explains that migration actually decreased for around five years after a temperature anomaly, before increasing for the next 20 years.

“One explanation is that people move to places further away and have to save more money to finance migration cost, [or] that it takes time to identify the temperature shock,” Wesselbaum told SciDev.Net.

Raya Muttarak, senior lecturer of geography and international development at the UK’s University of East Anglia, believes another reason for the apparent delay is that people at first try “in-situ adaptation”.

Around 244 million people – 2.8 per cent of the world’s population – were classed as migrants in 2015 by the UN. However, the UN has said it will not define climate migrants as refugees, a status that comes with more international support, citing concerns about watering down support programmes for those fleeing violent conflict.

A report by the UNFCCC, the UN’s climate change body, found last year that, globally, countries are largely failing to deal with climate migration adequately.

“Recognising the causal factors behind this forced migration would require governments to apportion responsibility, both for the initial migration and for the solutions to it,” said Steve Trent, director of the Environmental Justice Foundation, which lobbies on environmental issues in the Global South. “In many countries this is politically toxic and, without international agreement on shared and coordinated action, proves politically very hard to deal with.”The climate migration model showed that migration remained stable after storms and drought, but increased significantly after floods and extreme temperature events.