The role of environmental perceptions in migration decision-making: evidence from both migrants and non-migrants in five developing countries

Vally Koubi, Gabriele Spilker, Lena Schaffer, Tobias Böhmelt
Population and Environment
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Research has demonstrated that, in a variety of settings, environmental factors influence migration. Yet much of the existing work examines objective indicators of environmental conditions as opposed to the environmental perceptions of potential migrants. This paper examines migration decision-making and individual perceptions of different types of environmental change (sudden vs. gradual environmental events) with a focus on five developing countries: Vietnam, Cambodia, Uganda, Nicaragua, and Peru. The survey data include both migrants and non-migrants, with the results suggesting that individual perceptions of long-term (gradual) environmental events, such as droughts, lower the likelihood of internal migration. However, sudden-onset events, such as floods, increase movement. These findings substantially improve our understanding of perceptions as related to internal migration and also suggest that a more differentiated perspective is needed on environmental migration as a form of adaptation.