Population and Environment

, Volume 40, Issue 4, pp 456–479 | Cite as

Direct and indirect impacts of environmental factors on migration in Burkina Faso: application of structural equation modelling

  • Florence De LonguevilleEmail author
  • Yajing Zhu
  • Sabine Henry
Original Paper


In the prolific literature on the impact of environment on migration, direct and indirect effects are often mentioned but rarely estimated separately. We use structural equation modelling to estimate how the drivers of migration (socio-economic, environmental and individual) interact with each other and jointly contribute to individuals’ migration decision in rural Burkina Faso (1970–1998). Facing a worsening environmental situation, people’s direct response tends to be short-term migrations to rural and urban areas, but the indirect effect differs: poor rainfall conditions push down socio-economic situation in communities, which in turn discourages migration to rural areas or to abroad. In total, an adverse environmental situation tends to increase the likelihood of short-term migrations to rural and urban areas and to decrease that of long-term migrations to rural areas and to abroad. These findings contribute to a clearer understanding of the migration response to poor environmental conditions.


Migration Environment Burkina Faso Structural equation modelling 



We thank insightful comments from three anonymous reviewers that have led to improvements of this paper. We also thank Prof. Fiona Steele and Prof. Martin Bell for reading the first draft of the paper and the helpful feedback and Colin Starr for proofreading the entire final manuscript.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography & Institute of Life-Earth-EnvironmentUniversity of NamurNamurBelgium
  2. 2.MRC Biostatistics Unit, Institute of Public HealthUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  3. 3.Department of StatisticsLondon School of EconomicsLondonUK

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