Environmental Change and Internal Migration in Sub-Saharan Africa

Kenneth Houngbedji, Clement Imbert, Julien Wolfersberger, and Liam Wren-Lewis

This project has been retired

Small Research Grant

Worldwide, the effect of climate change and environmental degradation on livelihoods is growing in importance. They pose a particularly acute threat in developing countries where most of the immediate consequences are concentrated, and where pervasive poverty makes individuals more vulnerable to changes in the environment. While the effect of environmental shocks on rural emigration has been well studied, the possible feedback effect of environment-driven internal migration on the environment has so far received little attention in academic or policy discussions. This project aims to build an evidence base of the feedback effect of internal migration on environmental change in sub-Saharan Africa, more specifically the effect of emigration from rural areas on deforestation.

Migration data is sourced from census microdata, while environmental outcomes are collected from satellite data on deforestation. To study the effect of emigration on deforestation, the research team regress changes in forest cover on changes in population, instrumenting changes in population with pull shocks to avoid endogeneity issues.

Migration induced by climate change and a changing environment is well researched, but the reverse causation is often forgotten in spite of the importance to policy, particularly in lower-income countries. Understanding the causes of environmental degradation is critical for policies aiming for sustainable growth. Natural resources are a primary source of wealth for many lower-income countries, and a careful balance between resource harvesting and resource depletion is critical. Additionally, further harm to the environment will only increase the adverse effects on inhabitants’ health, productivity, and welfare that are already being experienced. This project answers these questions in the context of ten Sub-Saharan African countries that range in income levels, urbanisation rates, and industry mix.

Research Team

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