The New Migration

Climate change is driving people to urban areas.

In South America, abnormally high and low temperatures increase human migration, especially to urban areas, according to Brian Thiede, assistant professor of rural sociology, and colleagues. The researchers analyzed more than 21 million census records of working-age adults from eight South American countries over almost four decades.

The team found that extreme temperatures often drove people to urban areas. In addition, it found that women and adults with low education levels were more sensitive to gradual changes in climate than other people. "One speculative explanation is that these groups tend to work in more flexible and vulnerable occupations that tie them to particular places less than other groups," says Thiede. The findings are important, he says, because changes in human migration patterns are expected to be one of the major social impacts of climate change.

The findings appear in a recent issue of the journal Global Environmental Change.

--Kristie Auman-Bauer