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Linking Resilience and Climate Induced Migration

Climate change is an indisputable reality in countries like El Salvador, where the effects of this phenomenon are palpable. Migrating away from risk is a likely response for residents, but in fact many people choose to stay even in areas that are already impacted by repetitive losses. This dissertation examines the underlying issues that explain why people decide to stay despite constant climatic risk—in other words, why they demonstrate resilience. The objective is to understand the links between resilience and climate-induced migration by considering the social-ecological systems where these phenomena develop. Focusing on El Salvador, I used a multi-method approach and different techniques that reflect the heterodoxy of analytic approaches available for planners. After developing a qualitative analysis of a case study in Jiquilisco, El Salvador, I did a logistic regression in a cross-sectional analysis of 15 years of in-depth data from El Salvador’s national household survey (2003-2017) combined with environmental databases. From these, I built an agent-based model (ABM) that simulated the behavior of populations under climate change stressors, identifying “resilience thresholds” beyond which individuals within a household decide to move. Findings show that the social dimensions of resilience are significant in the decision-making process to relocate; some of these social dimensions include the right to own land, risk perception, social capital, and land tenure. Statistical and modeling investigations focused on land tenure and social capital. One key finding is that contrary to expectations, land ownership has a positive statistical and modeling relationship with the likelihood of migrating. The case study suggested that this is because the wealth inherent in land ownership provides the financial means for migration. Households with high social capital were less likely to migrate, as attachment to land and neighbors/family provides some resilience. The ABM found that there were clear thresholds of resilience in which even with repetitive slow-onset disasters, residents will stay up to a point. These studies inform future research as well as increase understanding of the highly complex issues of migrant agency and decision-making; additionally, they have diverse implications for the planning field as well as other related policy-making agencies.
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