Weather variability, agriculture and rural migration: evidence from state and district level migration in India

This study explores the three-way linkage between weather variability, agricultural performance and internal migration in India. Estimate a two-equation model, which examines variations in weather that influence crop yield and identifies the resulting effect on the rate of migration. The analysis uses two variants of migration data – inter-state out-migration and intra-state district-level in-migration – reported in the Indian Census. The elasticity of the inter-state out-migration rate with respect to per capita net state domestic agricultural product is approximately (-)0.75, indicating that a decline in the value of agricultural output related to weather variations results in an increase in the out-migration rate. The crop-wise analysis shows that a one percent decline in rice (wheat) yield leads to nearly 2 percent (1 percent) increase in the rate of out-migration from a state. The decline in rice yield triggers a higher rate of migration relative to the decline in wheat yield, possibly because of widespread cultivation of rice compared to wheat and involvement of family labor for the cultivation of this labor-intensive crop. Interestingly, the district-level analysis shows larger magnitudes of estimated change in in-migration rates relative to changes in crop yields.