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Climate Change, Crop Yields, and Internal Migration in the United States

  • Shuaizhang Feng
  • Michael Oppenheimer
  • Wolfram Schlenker

We investigate the link between agricultural productivity and net migration in the United States using a county-level panel for the most recent period of 1970-2009. In rural counties of the Corn Belt, we find a statistically significant relationship between changes in net outmigration and climate-driven changes in crop yields, with an estimated semi-elasticity of about -0.17, i.e., a 1% decrease in yields leads to a 0.17% net reduction of the population through migration. This effect is primarily driven by young adults. We do not detect a response for senior citizens, nor for the general population in eastern counties outside the Corn Belt. Applying this semi-elasticity to predicted yield changes under the B2 scenario of the Hadley III model, we project that, holding other factors constant, climate change would on average induce 3.7% of the adult population (ages 15-59) to leave rural counties of the Corn Belt in the medium term (2020-2049) compared to the 1960-1989 baseline, with the possibility of a much larger migration response in the long term (2077-2099). Since there is uncertainty about future warming, we also present projections for a range of uniform climate change scenarios in temperature or precipitation.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w17734.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17734.

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Date of creation: Jan 2012
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17734
Note: EEE
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  1. Marshall Burke & John Dykema & David Lobell & Edward Miguel & Shanker Satyanath, 2011. "Incorporating Climate Uncertainty into Estimates of Climate Change Impacts, with Applications to U.S. and African Agriculture," NBER Working Papers 17092, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Hornbeck, Richard A., 2012. "The Enduring Impact of the American Dust Bowl: Short- and Long-Run Adjustments to Environmental Catastrophe," Scholarly Articles 11303325, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  3. Key, Nigel D. & Roberts, Michael J., 2007. "Do Government Payments Influence Farm Size and Survival?," Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Western Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 32(02), August.
  4. Conley, T. G., 1999. "GMM estimation with cross sectional dependence," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 92(1), pages 1-45, September.
  5. Mendelsohn, Robert & Nordhaus, William D & Shaw, Daigee, 1994. "The Impact of Global Warming on Agriculture: A Ricardian Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 753-71, September.
  6. Michael J. Roberts & Nigel Key, 2008. "Agricultural Payments and Land Concentration: A Semiparametric Spatial Regression Analysis," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 90(3), pages 627-643.
  7. Wolfram Schlenker & W. Michael Hanemann & Anthony C. Fisher, 2005. "Will U.S. Agriculture Really Benefit from Global Warming? Accounting for Irrigation in the Hedonic Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 395-406, March.
  8. Dimitri, Carolyn & Effland, Anne & Conklin, Neilson C., 2005. "The 20th Century Transformation of U.S. Agriculture and Farm Policy," Economic Information Bulletin 59390, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
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