Climate change migration: some observations about India

This is a longish post on climate change and migration. The effect on climate change upon migration at a global level is a matter of conjecture. Several hundred million people are expected to migrate internally to due climate change by 2050.

Here I fill in the picture with a few observations about India. I draw on two studies which depict the climate related stresses and discuss government programs to mainly provide economic support.

Rapid and slow onset of climate disruptions and migration

One study, co-authored by my friend Nikhil Raj, focused on two sub-state regions:

Kendrapara had been one of the most fertile and prosperous regions of Odisha state, which lies on the Indian Ocean coast southwest of Kolkata. But climate extremes, in the form of rapid-onset events, have proven that even stable ecosystems and prosperous economies can collapse. More frequent rapid onset events such as cyclones and floods coupled with slow onset events such as sea-level rise and sea water intrusion have caused loss of livelihood assets, soil erosion and land degradation.

All Kendrapara respondents reported a change in precipitation and higher temperatures over the last five years. More than half reported that environmental stressors (floods, cyclones, erosion, and so on.) have become more hazardous and frequent in the last decade.

Palamu district in Jharkhand state, west and northwest of Kolata, is one of the most exposed and vulnerable regions to slow onset climate change impacts. Over time, the climate of Palamu has shifted from sub-humid to semiarid, causing frequent and prolonged drought and frost.

Source: Social protection and informal job market reform for tackling the climate migration nexus. (IIED Working Paper Sept 2022.)

Teasing out climate-based from total internal migration.

Another study based on surveys in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh states reports. These cases examplify how climate change related migration aound the world of signficant numbers may be centered in rural areas where there is a pre-existing pattern of circular or permanent migration to cities.

The relationship between climate change stress and its impact on migration is complex to understand. It is very difficult to distinguish individuals for whom climatic factors are the sole motivation for migration because several economic and sociopolitical factors interplay with climate drivers to increase the vulnerability of a household. Separating out permanent from circular migration is difficult. Some 200 million persons are estimated to engage in circular migration.

Migration in three studied states is massive. Migration from the three states is predominantly seasonal (61.4%).  Overall, about 31% of households intend to migrate in the future. Respondents who do not intend to migrate said that the fear of leaving their family unprotected and family commitments are barriers to migration. Around 80% of the respondents said that migration improves migrants’ economic security, education and work opportunities. It also enables them to bring new ideas and practices back to the village.

Almost 94% of households reported that the main reason behind migration is economic, with most migrants moving in search of better employment opportunities. The second most frequently mentioned reason was family obligations (17.8%).

As many as 35% of respondents in Uttar Pradesh reported that they were not working in their own villages due to climate shocks. More than two thirds (70%) of the respondents indicated that drought/irregular rainfall is a significant stressor. In addition, 23% of households mentioned flood as a significant stressor, while 8.3% mentioned hailstorms. More than 70% of the households in study regions said that the frequency of droughts had increased significantly in the last 5–10 years.

Source: Connecting the dots: Climate change, migration and social protection (IIED Working Paper October 2021)



My five-session course on immigration

I led this course online at OSHER at Dartmouth

Session 1: Basic facts about American immigration; how it works. Trends in immigration in the U.S. How people view immigration through their own lens. Absence of oversight in evaluation and planning; absence of leadership. Failure of reforms since 1986.

Session 2: Migration worldwide in all forms: voluntary, forced, expulsion, catastrophe-driven, refugee, internal How voluntary migration has become easier, less risky, since the 1970s. Persistent demand for migration into the U.S.

Session 3: Economics and culture of migration in the U.S. high skilled and low skilled; permanent and temporary. Reform proposals. Does immigration help or hurt the economy? Cultural aspects of migration.  What people expect of immigrants (English proficiency, work, etc.). Has immigration affected civic life and social trust? Reform proposals.

Session 4: Illegal migration. How authorized population in U.S surged after the 1986 reform act. The economics of smuggling. Employers role in verifying employment status.  Reform proposals.

Session 5: Build your own U.S. immigration policy. Volume targets, permanent and temporary. How to manage them.  How to resolve and reduce illegal immigration.  What is your vision? How to achieve comprehensive reform?

Unauthorized workers and their IRS, Social Security and Medicare payments

Investigators who are very critical about illegal employment present useful information about how workers who work without legal authorization generate very large contributions into the U.S. Treasury.

Most of this flow is into a suspense account for payments which do not match social security records. Social Security Administration’s Earnings Suspense File (ESF). “The total logged in the file has increased tenfold from $188.9 billion in 2000 to $1.9 trillion in 2021.”

These flows are largely the result of the IRS providing workers an ITIN (Individual Tax Identification Number) to persons without a valid social security number. They also result from persons using an invalid social security number, for instance issued to some one who died.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform found that the federal government collects about $22 billion annually in tax receipts from illegal aliens, with the bulk going toward Social Security ($12.6 billion) and Medicare ($5.9 billion), programs from which noncitizens are ineligible to receive benefits. FAIR estimated that illegal migrants also paid $3.3 billion in federal income tax and another $1 billion in state income taxes. The lower income tax figures are due to most illegal workers are low wage.  There is no way for these workers to capture the benefits of these payments or obtain refunds.

You can access a law review article on the legal issues involving these payments here.

The Trump administraion intended to use these kinds of mismatches to estimate the size of the unauthorized population by census district (go here.)


What Afghan refugee resettlement looks like in the United States

National Immigration Forum has collected over a 100 reports on resettlement of Afghans.  (This Sept 9 analysis says that 50,000 in total are expected, with most of them still on military bases outside the U.S. ) The Trump administration attempted to cripple this complex settlement network.

There are five of the reports collected:

The Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City is working with Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese Oklahoma City to prepare for hundreds of Afghan families arriving in the city.

Southern Colorado’s “KOAA News 5 is partnering with Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains and Vanguard Skin Specialists to fundraise for the [hundred plus] Afghan refugees who will be resettled in Colorado Springs by the end of the year.”

Afghan artists and women’s rights activists Zainab Ahmadi and Fawzia Abdaly joined Indianapolis artist Tiffany Black, along with almost 60 refugees, to create a mural honoring Afghan refugees’ journey to Indiana, which is now on display at the Indianapolis International Airport.

“Johnny,” a combat interpreter who helped American troops adapt to Afghan culture, has been resettled in Charlotte, N.C. — welcomed by Sen. Thom Tillis (R), among others.

With the help of the Utah Refugee Services Office, the International Rescue Committee and Catholic Community Services, “just over 900 Afghan refugees have moved to Utah – the largest refugee resettlement in state history.”

Anti and pro key words on immigration since 1850

An extraordinary work of analysis on immigration:

In the first comprehensive quantitative analysis of the past 140 y of US congressional and presidential speech about immigration, we identify a dramatic rise in proimmigration attitudes beginning in the 1940s, followed by a steady decline among Republicans (relative to Democrats) over the past 50 y. We also reveal divergent usage of positive (e.g., families) and negative (e.g., crime) frames—over time, by party, and between frequently mentioned European and non-European groups.

Most influential words for proimmigration and antiimmigration speeches, in three time periods, when approximating the predicted tone from our classification models with simpler logistic regression models.

Anti-immigration VS Proimmigration

Early (1880 to 1934)   ANTI Chinese, undesirable, exclusion, violation, restriction, permit, dangerous, restrict, smuggled, cheap, excluded, deport, laborers, war, VS PRO country, great, lands, gave, immigrants, entitled, property, relief, agriculture, served, give, rights, protection, glad, industrious

Transitional (1935 to 1972) ANTI aliens, country, illegal, alien, deportation, united, criminals, subversive, fact, deported, America, system, deport, undesirable  VS PRO life, humanitarian, families, migrant, opportunity, contributions, anniversary, citizens, hope, discriminatory, great, children, migrants

Modern (1973 to 2020) ANTI illegally, control, foreign, policy, enforce, entry, people, national, terrorism, illegal, terrorists, stop, smuggling, INS, dangerous VS PRO community, young, immigrant, life, contributions, Hispanic, heritage, dream, victims, Irish, proud, important, Italian, work, treatment, urge

Asian vs Mexican immigrant educational achievement

New Asian immigrants began to outnumber Latin American immigrants in 2015. This has lifted the formal educational status of recent immigrants, one of several trends which cause the immigrant population to more closely match the demographics of U.S. born persons. Other such trends include narrowing the disparity between the median immigrant / U.S. born work work income.


International refugees from Afghanistan and Ukraine


As of 12/31/21 (reported on 7/1/22), there were 2.3 million Afghan refugees outside their country. That amounts to 6% of the country’s population.

As of 7/26/22, a net number of 5,931,000 persons have left Ukraine since February 24. That is 16% of the country’s population in 2021.



Temporary Safe Haven: a primer on Temporary Protected Status

As of February 16, 2022, there were an estimated 354,625 people with Temporary Protected Status living in the United States. In addition, about 145,800 people are eligible for TPS under three designations announced by the Biden administration in March and April of 2022 (Afghanistan, Ukraine, and Cameroon). Go here.

TPS, created in the Immigration Act of 1990, gives temporary immigration status provided to nationals of specifically designated countries that are confronting an ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster, or extraordinary and temporary conditions. Examples of conditions for which TPS can be activated: civil war, earthquake, hurricane, or epidemic.  It provides a work permit and stay of deportation to foreign nationals from those countries who are in the United States at the time the U.S. government makes the designation.  It does not provide access to Green card. The person must remain continuously in the U.S. for coverage (except by permission of DHS). States can elect to allow or deny certain public benefits. At the end of the TPS, the person returns to their prior immigration status. The Secretary of Homeland Security makes the designation.

A TPS designation can be made for 6, 12, or 18 months at a time. The law does not define the term “temporary.” Countries for which its citizens in the U.S. may be covered by TPS as of June 2022: Afghanistan, Cameroon, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela and Yemen.  Liberia and Hong Kong are included in a special way. About 11 countries have been given TPS status and were discontinued.

On March 3, 2022, Ukraine nationals were granted TPS status for 18 months. This covers 59,600 persons. Afghanistan nationals were covered for TPS for an 18-month period, beginning on May 20, 2022. DHS estimated this covers 74,500 persons.

Also here and here.







How immigrations make it, past and today

The opinion of Princeton economist Leah Boustan

….the pattern whereby the kids of poor and working-class immigrants do better than their American counterparts, is true both today and in the past. The children of poor Irish or Italian immigrant parents outperformed the children of poor US-born parents in the early 20th century; the same is true of the children of immigrants today.

In the past: We are able to delve into the reasons for this immigrant advantage in the past in great detail, and we find that the single most important factor is geography. Immigrants tended to settle in dynamic cities that provided opportunities both for themselves and for their kids. So, in the past, this meant avoiding Southern states, which were primarily agricultural and cotton-growing at the time, and – outside of the South – moving to cities more than to rural areas. If you think about it, it makes sense: immigrants have already left home, often in pursuit of economic opportunity, so once they move to the US they are more willing to go where the opportunities are.

Today:  Geography still matters a lot today, but not as much as in the past. Instead, we suspect that educational differences between groups matter today. Think about a Chinese or Indian immigrant who doesn’t earn very much, say working in a restaurant or a hotel or in childcare. In some cases, the immigrant him or herself arrived in the US with an education – even a college degree – but has a hard time finding work in their chosen profession. Despite the fact that these immigrant families do not have many financial resources, they can pass along educational advantages to their children.
From Noah Smith substack blog

Here is my posting on the remarkable upward mobility of children of poor Asian mothers.

Children do better than their parents. Here.