Amenities or disamenities? Estimating the impacts of extreme heat and wildfire on domestic US migration

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Department of Social Sciences


For decades, Americans have generally been moving away from the Northeast and the Midwest toward the South and West. Mountainous and desert areas in the West and Southwest have been especially popular internal migration destinations. However, these same areas are particularly susceptible to the increasing impacts of climate change on extreme heat and wildfire. This paper investigates relationships between disaster-level fire events and extreme heat on county-level migration in the USA using annual panel data for the years 1990–2015. Are wildfire and extreme heat associated with changes in migration patterns? And, are relationships between such “disamenities” and migration stronger in counties with closer ties to environmental amenities? Fixed effects and random effects regression analysis show that both experiencing a disaster-level wildfire and extreme heat in the prior year were associated with reduced migration. Relationships are stronger in counties rich in natural amenities and outdoor recreation, suggesting that in places known for their environmental amenities, shifts toward environmental disamenities may be particularly impactful.

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Population and Environment