Nonlinear permanent migration response to climatic variations but minimal response to disasters

Pratikshya Bohra-Mishra, Michael Oppenheimer, Solomon M. Hsiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

225 Scopus citations


We present a microlevel study to simultaneously investigate the effects of variations in temperature and precipitation along with sudden natural disasters to infer their relative influence on migration that is likely permanent. The study is made possible by the availability of household panel data from Indonesia with an exceptional tracking rate combined with frequent occurrence of natural disasters and significant climatic variations, thus providing a quasi-experiment to examine the influence of environment on migration. Using data on 7,185 households followed over 15 y, we analyze whole-household, province-to-province migration, which allows us to understand the effects of environmental factors on permanent moves that may differ from temporary migration. The results suggest that permanent migration is influenced by climatic variations, whereas episodic disasters tend to have much smaller or no impact on such migration. In particular, temperature has a nonlinear effect on migration such that above 25°C, a rise in temperature is related to an increase in outmigration, potentially through its impact on economic conditions. We use these results to estimate the impact of projected temperature increases on future permanent migration. Though precipitation also has a similar non-linear effect on migration, the effect is smaller than that of temperature, underscoring the importance of using an expanded set of climatic factors as predictors of migration. These findings on the minimal influence of natural disasters and precipitation on permanent moves supplement previous findings on the significant role of these variables in promoting temporary migration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9780-9785
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number27
StatePublished - Jul 8 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Climate change
  • Environmental migrants
  • Human response to climate change
  • Migration and disasters
  • Statistical


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