Migration from Central America has increased substantially since 2015. More migrants are coming from rural areas and family migration has replaced the migration of single adults as the largest category of migrants from the region. This is occurring as droughts related to climate change are increasing in frequency and intensity, with large impacts on food security for smallholder farmers in the region’s Dry Corridor. Professor Sarah Bermeo uses subnational data on both migration and agricultural stress for Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador from 2012-2019 to examine the impact of droughts related to climate change on migration decisions. Both rural location and agricultural stress are associated with substantial and significant increases in arrivals of family units from subnational areas at the U.S. southern border. The findings have implications for how to think about the relationship between climate change and migration. They also imply that current low levels of foreign aid to rural areas may partially explain why increasing aid has not been associated with declines in out-migration.
Sarah Bermeo is a political economist, associate professor of public policy and political science at Duke University, and co-director of the Duke Program on Climate-Related Migration. Her research lies at the intersection of international relations and development, with a focus on foreign aid, migration, climate change, and the intersection of these areas. Bermeo is the author of Targeted Development: Industrialized Country Strategy in a Globalizing World (Oxford, 2018); journal articles that have appeared in BMJ: Global Health, International Organization, Journal of Politics, and World Development; multiple policy briefs and reports; and book chapters in edited volumes. She regularly engages with policymakers, media, and general audiences on issues related to foreign aid, migration, and climate change, with a particular emphasis on Central America; her blog posts on these topics have appeared in multiple outlets, including The Brookings Institution and Monkey Cage.