Climate change as a migration driver from rural and urban Mexico

Raphael J Nawrotzki , Lori M Hunter, Daniel M Runfola and Fernando Riosmena

Climate change and how it shapes migration patterns has previously only focused on migration from rural areas. However, contrasting climate migration from rural to urban areas is vital in order to understand the different implications of climate variability and the role of factors such as access to social networks, demographics and location characteristics. This article investigates whether climate change influences the probability of migration from urban areas, highlighting climate change impact on US-bound migration from rural and urban Mexico between the years of 1986-1999.

Adverse impacts of climate change and its effects on urban households usually involve adaptation measures to be employed ‘in situ’. In situ strategies include selling assets, using formal and informal credit and drawing on social and public programs for assistance. Rural households may instead be forced to use an ‘ex situ’ strategy. Ex situ strategies requires a member or members of the household to migrate, often to big cities where the environment and market are more profitable. As such, poor agricultural labourers can supplement their income through remittances. In these cases migration can function as an informal insurance mechanism since remittances not only benefit the migrant’s family but can positively impact community development as well.

Future generations of the population of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) will be predominantly urban and as such, understanding the different implication of climate variability for rural and urban household migration is therefore of policy importance.



Image credit:  Amir Jina (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) from

Chanelle Andrén is a volunteer at UK Climate Change and Migration Coalition and writes the round up of new research on climate change, migration and displacement. Her background is in International Human Rights Law with specialisation in ‘Just Transitions’.

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