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Climate variability and human migration in the Netherlands, 1865–1937

Abstract

Human migration is frequently cited as a potential social outcome of climate change and variability, and these effects are often assumed to be stronger in the past when economies were less developed and markets more localized. Yet, few studies have used historical data to test the relationship between climate and migration directly. In addition, the results of recent studies that link demographic and climate data are not consistent with conventional narratives of displacement responses. Using longitudinal individual-level demographic data from the Historical Sample of the Netherlands and climate data that cover the same period, we examine the effects of climate variability on migration using event history models. Only internal moves in the later period and for certain social groups are associated with negative climate conditions, and the strength and direction of the observed effects change over time. International moves decrease with extreme rainfall, suggesting that the complex relationships between climate and migration that have been observed for contemporary populations extend into the nineteenth century.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. HSN Data Set Life Courses Release 2010.01 (International Institute for Social History 2010).

  2. The difference between the birth record sample and the sample of reconstructed life courses is attributable to the progress of record linkage in contents of this data release as well as loss to follow-up.

  3. The station was located in the city of Utrecht until 1897 and then moved to the nearby village of De Bilt.

  4. The mean distance from municipality of residence to weather station was 48 km for rainfall stations and 44 km for temperature stations. The main results are robust to the exclusion of municipalities more than 50 km from a weather station.

  5. When data from two stations were available in the same municipality, we used data from the station that covered more years within our study period.

  6. Approximately 2.6 % of moves occur during the same year as another move. Our person-year data do not account for this small percentage of instances in which individuals move more than once per year. These cases are coded the same as single moves per year, which are identified by a difference in location from the start of 1 year to the start of the next year. However, we believe that our choice of annual resolution does not overlook a significant amount of detail in migration.

  7. The models specified in this paper include household-level variables. When individuals are transferred to a system of registration that does not include household information, such as personal rather than household cards, they are right-censored.

  8. We also explored alternative methods to decompose these moves, including into non-return and return moves (defined as having returned to a municipality inhabited in the last 10 years—approximately 20 % of moves), and urban/rural migration, defined by whether the destination was urban or rural. These alternative definitions did not provide any insight beyond the main specification and are not presented here.

  9. As a robustness check, we also excluded the first and last 3 years of the time series from the analysis and were able to reproduce results very similar to those presented here.

  10. Occupational groups in the HSN were coded using the HISCO classification (van Leeuwen et al. 2002). Urban locations are defined as towns with over 10,000 inhabitants and with less than 2.5 % of the population employed in the agricultural sector in 1899 (Kooij 1985).

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Acknowledgments

We gratefully acknowledge Kees Mandemakers for assistance with the HSN data and Maia Call for programming assistance. Peter Ekamper provided access to historical climate data, and Richard Sciotte supplied data on passenger flows. Useful comments were provided by Robert McLeman, members of the Lund University Centre for Economic Demography, and the Caltech Social Science History group. Support for C. Gray is provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Grant R00HD061752. This research is conducted in compliance with the data use agreement and privacy regulations of the Historical Sample of the Population of the Netherlands (HSN).

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Jennings, J.A., Gray, C.L. Climate variability and human migration in the Netherlands, 1865–1937. Popul Environ 36, 255–278 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11111-014-0218-z

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Keywords

  • Internal migration
  • International migration
  • Climate variation
  • The Netherlands
  • Event history analysis