Climate Change and Internal Migration: Evidence from Global Census Data

04  November 2021    3:00 pm CET

Roman Hoffmann, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (Austria)

In cooperation with:

Research Centre International Economics (FIW) 


This is an online event via Zoom. Please register using the registration link below.


In this paper, we provide a systematic comparative analysis of climate-induced internal migration across 69 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean based on the micro census data supplied by the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) International over the period 1960-2015. Using the data from 188 censuses, we construct a longitudinal database at the sub-national regional level (Geo 1 census regions) with information on bilateral migration flows between the regions. Migration is estimated based on information on the previous residence of the census participants five or ten  years prior to the respective census date (Garcia et al. 2015). In total, the data contains information on internal migration from 1600 census regions allowing us to estimate approximately 98000 bilateral migration flows.   

We use gravity-type fixed effects models to estimate internal migration flows induced by temperature and rainfall anomalies as well as drought taking into account both socioeconomic and climate drivers at the origin and destination. All models control for both region of origin as well as destination fixed effects and common time trends. We find a sizeable impact of negative precipitation anomalies, as well as weaker but significant impacts of heat anomalies and droughts on migration. Our findings furthermore suggest that also climatic conditions in destination regions influence migration flows to those regions. Fitting a series of spatial interaction models for different world regions, we find long-term heat stress increases out-migration in Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean while internal migration flows decline in Africa as the frequency of dry years increase. For the latter, the vulnerable subgroups of population may be ‘trapped’ in the place with unfavorable climatic conditions since they do not have necessary resources to facilitate outmigration (Black et al. 2013). 

As next steps, we plan to extend our analysis to study not only whether and where climate-induced migration occurs,but also to better understand who migrates, under which conditions, and to which locations. For this, we will use rich information collected in the censuses about the socioeconomic and demographic characteristics of migrants as well as complementary data on the conditions in the origin as well as prospective destination regions. The results of our study have important implications in the context of global policy discussions and highlight the role of contextual differences in shaping migration responses to climate change.

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Roman Hoffmann

Roman Hoffmann is a research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and he is also affiliated with the Vienna Institute of Demography of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. He holds a PhD in economics from the University of Vienna and degrees in sociology and economics from the University of Munich. In his applied research, he studies the relationship between environmental conditions, climate change and population dynamics as well as resulting implications for sustainable development. His work focuses on diverse topics related to climate impacts on human livelihoods, climate-induced migration, adaptation and resilience, and environmental health. In addition, he is interested in factors influencing climate change mitigation and sustainability, including drivers of environmental concerns, pro-environmental behaviors, and support for climate action. He has served as a consultant for UNIDO, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the German Development Cooperation (GIZ), and several non-governmental organizations.