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Attitudes of urban residents towards environmental migration in Kenya and Vietnam


The displacement of people is an important consequence of climate change, as people may choose or be forced to migrate in response to adverse climate conditions or sudden-onset extreme climate events. Existing studies show that there is a consistently higher social acceptance of migrants fleeing political persecution or war than of economic migrants. Here we examine whether individuals in Vietnam and Kenya also extend the notion of deservingness to environmental migrants in the context of internal rural-to-urban migration, using original data from a choice-based conjoint survey experiment. We find that although residents in receiving areas view short-term climate events and long-term climate conditions as legitimate reasons to migrate, they do not see environmental migrants as more deserving than economic migrants. These findings have implications for how practitioners address population movements due to climatic changes, and how scholars study people’s attitudes towards environmental migrants.

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Fig. 1: Migrant acceptance across profiles.
Fig. 2: Effect of migrant attributes on migrant acceptance in Vietnam.
Fig. 3: Effect of migrant attributes on migrant acceptance in Kenya.

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Data availability

The data and replication materials are available from the corresponding author and on the Harvard Dataverse Network ( Source Data for Figs. 13 are provided with the paper.


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This research was partly funded by the Swiss Network for International Studies. T.B. acknowledges support from the British Academy (grant no. SRG19\190780, in partnership with the UK Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



G.S. contributed to the manuscript preparation, data collection, graph generation, model estimation and model interpretation. Q.N. contributed to the manuscript preparation, data collection, and conjoint development and application. V.K. contributed to the project formulation, data collection, manuscript preparation and conjoint application. T.B. contributed to the manuscript preparation, graph generation and model interpretation.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Gabriele Spilker.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Peer review information Nature Climate Change thanks Nikhar Gaikwad and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–33 and Tables 1–4.

Reporting Summary

Source data

Source Data Fig. 1

Stata dataset combining the variables from the Vietnamese and the Kenyan datasets necessary to replicate Fig. 1.

Source Data Fig. 2

Replication dataset for Vietnam. All replication materials are also available on the Harvard Dataverse Network (

Source Data Fig. 3

Replication dataset for Kenya. All replication materials are also available on the Harvard Dataverse Network (

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Spilker, G., Nguyen, Q., Koubi, V. et al. Attitudes of urban residents towards environmental migration in Kenya and Vietnam. Nat. Clim. Chang. 10, 622–627 (2020).

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