Natural disasters, migration and education
Blog post based on an article in the journal Environmental and Developmental Economics
Natural environment is probably the oldest determinant of population displacement. However, there are a lot of discussions related to the consequences of climate events on migration likely due to the fact that except some case studies, there is little empirical evidence on this issue.
This study contributes to the literature by studying the effect of natural disasters, closely related to climate change, on migration in developing countries with a particular focus on how this effect varies according to the level of education. We investigate this relationship by using international migration data from developing countries to the main OECD countries.
Natural disasters variables are composed of meteorological disasters considering the events caused by storms; hydrological disasters that group the events caused by floods and other wet
mass movements; as well as climatological disasters taking into account disasters caused by drought, wildfire and extremely high temperatures.
The results show that natural disasters increase migration rates but also exacerbate the brain drain in developing countries by involving the migration of highly skilled people. We find some differences in the migration behavior across regions. People from sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and Central Asia and South Asia will migrate less due to the occurrence of natural disasters compared to people from other regions, while people from Latin America and the Caribbean will migrate more. We do not find any significant effect of natural disasters on migration for East Asia and Pacific and Middle East and North Africa.
For the high educated population, there is no difference between regions in the relation linking natural disasters to migration, with the exception for sub-Saharan Africa. For this region, high
educated people will migrate less due to the occurrence of natural disasters, compared to people from the other regions. A more detailed analysis also shows that the impacts of natural disaster on migration are mainly driven by the hydrological disasters.
One of the important implications of our study is that the migration of high skilled people due to natural disasters can be interpreted as both a failure strategy and an adaptive response to migration. It is a failure strategy because when developing countries are facing such events, they need all their financial and human resources to deal with the consequences. Therefore, developing countries may face equity issues due to the brain drain effect and the loss of qualifications and skills, just when they are at their most vulnerable. On the other hand, it can be interpreted as an adaptive response if these migrants send remittances that cover the costs of the brain drain. Therefore, this paper opens some avenues for future research to ascertain how remittances can compensate the negative consequences of the migration of high skilled workers in a context of environmental shocks.