Understanding how emergencies affect internal migration in Costa Rica

June 08, 2016
Magda Barrera

Research shows that weather-related emergencies, such as floods, significantly increase internal migration in Costa Rica. An increase of one hydro-meteorological emergency raises migration rates between 0.7 and 0.11 percentage points. Therefore, migration can be a potential adaptation strategy when faced with weather-related emergencies, with people moving to less vulnerable places. 

IDRC-funded research carried out by the Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza, under the Latin American and Caribbean Environmental Economics Program (LACEEP), reveals that, between 1995 and 2000, the level of migration depended on the severity of emergencies. More common, less severe emergencies that resulted in damage to houses led to emigration from affected areas. However, more severe emergencies with loss of life reduced migration. In general, a rising frequency of emergencies led to migration from rural to urban areas, and from urban areas to other cities. This poses a serious challenge for Costa Rica and ultimately other Latin American countries, where many cities are already crowded. 

Understanding the effects of climate change requires understanding the interactions of socioeconomic, biophysical, and political variables. Climate change and extreme weather events have increased water-related risks in vulnerable areas and, as this research found, will in turn have an impact on migration patterns. 

This research is part of the IDRC-funded project Strengthening capacity on the economics of climate change, water and adaptation in Latin America and the Caribbean. The project aims to strengthen the capacity of researchers to assess how climate change affects water provision services in Latin America by using environmental economics methods.

To learn more about this project: