Migration and the Environment


Book section


Hunter, L.
Nawrotzki, R.


Migration and the Environment




White, J. Michael

Book Title

International Handbook of Migration and Population Distribution


Springer Netherlands


Motivated by growing public and policy concerns with the social implications of climate change, this chapter reviews theory and research on the environmental dimensions of human migration. Recent research on migration-environment connections employs a variety of methods including time series analysis to capture the dynamic nature of migrant flows, multilevel modeling to account for nested data structures, agent-based modeling to incorporate feedback mechanisms, and qualitative ethnographic approaches to investigate causal pathways between environmental triggers and migration responses. Historical analogs and research in disaster settings have also provided useful insight. Findings reveal that the natural environment can act as a ‘push’ factor when livelihoods are challenged by chronic long-term, or rapid onset, environmental change. Scholarly work also stresses the reciprocal impacts of migration on the environment, with negative and positive ecosystem effects in both origin and destination communities. Finally, recent research has employed empirical simulation of migration as related to projected environmental scenarios, suggesting future increases in environmentally-influenced migration flows. However, the study of the migration-environment connection is still nascent and a number of areas deserve additional research attention. These include investigation of migration form and distance (domestic vs. international), rural-urban linkages, health aspects, and social inequalities as both amplifier and implication of environmental migration. In closing, we draw attention to the disconnect between scientific studies and policy debates and call for an increase in interdisciplinary collaborations, bridging the natural – social science divide and fostering interactions with advocacy groups and policymakers.


Hunter, L. and R. Nawrotzki (2016). Migration and the Environment. International Handbook of Migration and Population Distribution. J. M. White. Dordrecht, Springer Netherlands: 465-484.
URL : http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-7282-2_21