Time to Mainstream the Environment Into Migration Theory?

Lori M. Hunter , University of Colorado Boulder
Daniel Simon, University of Colorado Boulder

Researchers examining migration-environment linkages often apply mainstream migration theory to their scholarship, even though much migration theory neglects explicit inclusion of the influence of the natural environment in migration processes. While context, broadly defined, plays a role in much theoretical understanding of migration, the social and economic dimensions of context receive primary emphasis. We argue that contemporary climate change, combined with an increasing body of evidence identifying an environmental ‘signal’ in migration, mandates that migration’s theoretical lens be “zoomed out” to better incorporate the natural environment as an important contextual component. We offer research examples illustrating innovations in the application of migration theory to migration-environment scholarship yet, ultimately, we contend that environmental factors must more centrally be integrated into mainstream migration perspectives. We conclude by exploring pathways to accomplish just that.

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 Presented in Session 163. Innovative Application of Demographic Theory to Population-Environment Research