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Outward migration may alter population dynamics and income inequality

Nature Climate Change volume 7, pages 828832 (2017) | Download Citation

Abstract

Climate change impacts may drive affected populations to migrate. However, migration decisions in response to climate change could have broader effects on population dynamics in affected regions. Here, I model the effect of climate change on fertility rates, income inequality, and human capital accumulation in developing countries, focusing on the instrumental role of migration as a key adaptation mechanism. In particular, I investigate how climate-induced migration in developing countries will affect those who do not migrate. I find that holding all else constant, climate change raises the return on acquiring skills, because skilled individuals have greater migration opportunities than unskilled individuals. In response to this change in incentives, parents may choose to invest more in education and have fewer children. This may ultimately reduce local income inequality, partially offsetting some of the damages of climate change for low-income individuals who do not migrate.

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Acknowledgements

I would like to thank G. P. Casey from Brown University for assistance with developing the analytical model and for comments that greatly improved the manuscript. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement no. 703399 for the project ‘Robust Policy’.

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  1. Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM), 20123 Milano, Italy

    • Soheil Shayegh

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The author declares no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to Soheil Shayegh.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate3420