Scholars and activists have hypothesized a connection between environmental change and out-migration. In this paper, we test this hypothesis using data from Nepal. We operationalize environmental change in terms of declining land cover, rising times required to gather organic inputs, increasing population density, and perceived declines in agricultural productivity. In general, environmental change is more strongly related to short- than long-distance moves. Holding constant the effects of other social and economic variables, we find that local moves are predicted by perceived declines in productivity, declining land cover, and increasing time required to gather firewood. Long-distance moves are predicted by perceived declines in productivity, but the effect is weaker than in the model of short-distance mobility. We also show that effects of environmental change vary by gender and ethnicity, with women being more affected by changes in the time required to gather fodder and men by changes in the time to gather firewood, and high-caste Hindus generally being less affect than others by environmental change.
PMCID: PMC3042700. (Pub Med Central)
Country of focus: Nepal.