The E-axes Forum on Climate Change, Macroeconomics, and Finance

Charles A Taylor

“Homeward Bound: How Migrants Seek Out Familiar Climates”

Young Scholars' Webinar on Climate Finance and Economics

This paper introduces the concept of “climate matching” as a driver of migration and establishes several new results. First, we show that climate strongly predicts the spatial distribution of immigrants in the US, both historically (1880) and more recently (2015), whereby movers select destinations with climates similar to their place of origin. Second, we analyze historical flows of German, Norwegian, and domestic migrants in the US and document that climate sorting also holds within countries. Third, we exploit variation in the long-run change in average US climate from 1900 to 2019 and find that migration increased more between locations whose climate converged. Fourth, we verify that results are not driven by the persistence of ethnic networks or other confounders and provide evidence for two complementary mechanisms: climate-specific human capital and climate as amenity. Fifth, we back out the value of climate similarity by: i) exploiting the Homestead Act, a historical policy that changed relative land prices; and ii) examining the relationship between climate mismatch and mortality. Finally, we project how climate change shapes the geography of US migration, both historically and into the 21st century.


Diego Känzig
Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics at Northwestern University

Organizing Committee

Michael Barnett, Arizona State University
Diego Känzig, Northwestern University
Alissa M. Kleinnijenhuis, Cornell University
Ishita Sen, Harvard Business School

Charles A Taylor

Charles Taylor is an assistant professor at the Harvard Kennedy School. His research focuses on the environment, agriculture, and climate change. For his work he often uses satellite data to answer policy questions. Charles has previously held positions at The Earth Partners, a sustainable land investment company, McKinsey & Company, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He is the co-founder of Drylands Natural Resource Centre, a farmer-owned cooperative. He earned a BA from the University of Virginia and a PhD in sustainable development from Columbia University and was previously a Ciriacy-Wantrup fellow at UC Berkeley.

Paper and slides

Paper_Homeward Bound: How Migrants Seek Out Familiar Climates

Slides_Homeward Bound: How Migrants Seek Out Familiar Climates



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