Population and Environment

, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 134–163 | Cite as

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

  • Vally KoubiEmail author
  • Gabriele Spilker
  • Lena Schaffer
  • Tobias Böhmelt
Original Paper


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.


Environmental change Individual perceptions Migration Sudden events Gradual events 



The authors thank two anonymous reviewers and the journal editor for their helpful comments. This research is part of the project “Environmental Change and Migration” funded by the Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vally Koubi
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Gabriele Spilker
    • 3
  • Lena Schaffer
    • 4
  • Tobias Böhmelt
    • 1
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Center for Comparative and International Studies (CIS)ETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of Political Science and SociologyUniversity of SalzburgSalzburgAustria
  4. 4.Department of Politics and Public AdministrationUniversity of KonstanzKonstanzGermany
  5. 5.Department of GovernmentUniversity of EssexColchesterUK
  6. 6.Institute for Environmental Decisions (IED)ETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland

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