Ecological Migration in a Large-Scale Quasi-Experiment Design in China: Implications of Climate Change, Landscape Structure, Ecosystem Services, and Government Intervention

A footprint on the dry, cracked ground
Project Type
April 2017

One direct impact of climate change is human migration. Environment-related migration has significant impacts on the well-being of migrants and the residents of the receiving communities and has reciprocal effects on landscape structure and ecosystem services. However, most existing studies on environmental migration suffer from two major issues: selection biases that limit causal inferences and an inability to definitively classify individuals as environment-induced migrants. The large-scale ecological migration initiated by the Chinese government presents a “perfect” case study that addresses both issues. In late 2016, China launched a program to relocate 10 million people under the poverty level who live in ecologically vulnerable areas with deteriorating environments. Because the program implementation will be top-down but vary by locality, we will be able to identify environment-induced versus government-driven migrants in a quasi-experiment design. Our overarching objective is to extend the coupled human and natural system framework for understanding the relationships between climate-related migration and landscape structure and ecosystem services in both the receiving and origin regions. 

Resulting Funding

  • National Science Foundation (NSF) "NNA Track 1: Pursuing Opportunities for Long-term Arctic Resilience for Infrastructure and Society (POLARIS)" (Award # NNA-1927827). 1/1/2020–12/31/2023. Guangqing Chi (PI) with Erica Smithwick (Senior Personnel) and others. $3,000,000.

Resulting Presentations

  • Zhou, Shuai, Guangqing Chi, Brian Thiede, Zhen Lei, and Huanguang Qiu. 2019. "Subsidized Relocation and the Willingness to Move: Evidence from the Targeted Poverty Alleviation Project in China." 2019 Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America, April 10-13, 2019, Austin, TX. 
  • Zhou, Shuai, Guangqing Chi, Brian Thiede, Zhen Lei, and Huanguang Qiu. 2018. "Subsidized Relocation and the Willingness to Move: The First Look at the Targeted Poverty Alleviation Project in China." 81st Annual Meeting of the Rural Sociological Society, July 26-29, 2018, Portland, OR.


Zhen Lei

Associate Professor, John and Willie Leone Department of Energy & Mineral Engineering (EME)

Jiquan Chen

Jiquan Chen
Professor, Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Science, Michigan State University

Huanguang Qiu

Huanguang Qiu
Professor, School of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, Renmin University of China

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