Linkages among climate change, crop yields and Mexico-US cross-border migration

Shuaizhang Feng, Alan B. Krueger, Michael Oppenheimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

347 Scopus citations


Climate change is expected to cause mass human migration, including immigration across international borders. This study quantitatively examines the linkages among variations in climate, agricultural yields, and people's migration responses by using an instrumental variables approach. Our method allows us to identify the relationship between crop yields and migration without explicitly controlling for all other confounding factors. Using state-level data from Mexico, we find a significant effect of climate-driven changes in crop yields on the rate ofemigration to the United States. The estimated semielasticity of emigration with respect to crop yields is approximately -0.2, i.e., a 10% reduction in crop yields would lead an additional 2% of the population to emigrate. We then use the estimated semielasticity to explore the potential magnitude of future emigration. Depending on the warming scenarios used and adaptation levels assumed, with other factors held constant, by approximately the year 2080, climate change is estimated to induce 1.4 to 6.7 million adult Mexicans (or 2% to 10% of the current population aged 15-65 y) to emigrate as a result of declines in agricultural productivity alone. Although the results cannot be mechanically extrapolated to other areas and time periods, our findings are significant from a global perspective given that many regions, especially developing countries, are expected to experience significant declines in agricultural yields as a result of projected warming.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14257-14262
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number32
StatePublished - Aug 10 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Agricultural productivity
  • Environmental migrants
  • Global warming
  • Human migration
  • Instrumental variables approach


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