Report: Women Who Go, Women Who Stay: Reactions to Climate Change in Mexico

We’re a little slow on the unveiling of this, but Heinrich Boll Stiftung released a publication in November 2010 on the gendered migration responses of communities in Chiapas called “

_Mexico_Singles.pdf”>Women Who Go, Women Who Stay: Reactions to Climate Change in Mexico.” This is a particularly welcome contribution to the virtually non-existent literature on different migration responses

of men and women. The report found that “most of the men in the case study whose migration is associated with climate change have migrated due to the direct impacts from climate change on agriculture – because they lost their land plots and/or harvests. Meanwhile, most women migrate in response to indirect impacts on the overall economy. Because agriculture is considered to be a man’s activity, and few women work in this area, women migrate primarily in response to the overall depressed economy, which provokes critical losses in their income, mostly in commercial activities. Less participation by women in agriculture is also the reason that, in general, impacts from climate change play a

lesser role in decisions made by women to migrate than those made by men.”

More interestingly, “in the case of married couples, women do not migrate. This is a case of household, not individual, strategies, in which, due to traditional gender roles, men are the ones who must respond to adverse economic impacts from climate change by migrating.” Although, “single mothers are the women most likely to migrate in response to climate change, since they must generate income to maintain their families. The loss of income from economic depression

forces them to migrate in search of work, and the same is true for many young women who provide economic support to their parents.”

From this study, we can see that responses to climate change are very household and community-based. In a livelihoods system like that of Africa, where some 80 percent of agricultural output is led by women, migration might be a much more common response, especially given the migration patterns seen by men/agricultural workers in Mexico. More studies would be needed in each impacted community in order to determine truly the differences in migration for men and women.

For further reference: In 2009, Lori M. Hunter and Emmanuel Davis of the University of Colorado, Boulder wrote a working paper on “Climate Change and Migration: Considering the Gender Dimensions,” where they looked at potential ways in which climate change may differentially shape both migration’s cause and consequence by gender. They used a livelihoods framework, in which they believed there were “two pathways through which climate change’s gendered migration impacts may manifest: 1) shifts in proximate natural resources and agricultural potential, as well as 2) increases in extreme weather events.”

Again, we see that the study of gendered migration is nuanced. Hunter and Davis acknowledge that extreme weather events might impact migration differently for men and women, and not just slow-onset impacts like that of drought, which the Mexico study focuses on.

In sum, there remain more questions than answers. Regardless, both of the studies above should be read and re-read in order to begin to “gain the nuance understanding necessary to inform policy mitigating climate change’s impacts,” as Hunter and Davis write.


  • Linda Burke

    Thank you Kayly! This is an excellent article.

Leave a Comment