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Type: Theses
Title: Exploring the relationship between climatic variability, inequality and migration from a class perspective: evidence from Minqin County, Western China
Author: Liu, Xuchun
Issue Date: 2015
School/Discipline: School of Social Sciences
Abstract: Climate change is an unequal process in which vulnerable groups are always disproportionately affected and easily further impoverished and marginalized. Inequality has been identified as an important factor shaping people’s vulnerability to climate change, which determines their experience of climate change impacts and the subsequent adaptation strategies. Human migration, as an important adaptation to climate change, is significantly influenced by inequality. Unequal distribution of resources allows decisions and consequences of migration to vary greatly between nations, communities, and even households and individuals. Despite acknowledging the significant role that inequality plays in the climate change-migration nexus, to date there has been few empirical studies that model the relationship between climate change, inequality and migration, especially in a non-disaster scenario at a sub-national level. This study aims to close the research gap by providing a nuanced understanding of how different tiers and dimensions of inequality influence households’ experience of impacts of climatic variability, a fundamental aspect of climate change, and consequently shape their migration behaviours and intentions. This is achieved by focusing on a slow onset environmental degradation scenario in a sub-national community, Minqin county in western China. To systematically and comprehensively understand inequality, class, a major organising concept to describe inequality and explain human behaviour, is used to conceptualise inequality in two tiers (class structure of the community and class position of the household) and five dimensions (economic, social, cultural, reputational and political status). Underpinned by a mixed methods approach, qualitative and quantitative data were collected from primary and secondary sources, such as a household survey, in-depth interviews with key informants, census, yearbooks and policy documents. These data enabled this study to carry out descriptive, regression and thematic analysis. A two-stage decision making process of migration has been conceptualised in the framework based upon the Theory of Planned Behaviour. Accordingly, a two-stage econometric regression approach is employed to test two major hypotheses: (1) In what ways and to what extent multiple inequalities shape households’ experience of climatic variability impacts? (2) How multiple inequalities combine with the climatic variability impacts to differentiate households’ migration patterns in the past and likely to in the future? The regression model is based on primary data collected from 445 households in Minqin county of western China in 2012. The results show that the groups that were particularly vulnerable to climatic variability impacts include those living in a community with an unequal distribution of income and having low economic, social and political status in the community. The influence of climatic variability impacts and class on migration is mixed. The negative impact of climatic variability on crops and land drives migration, while the negative impact on water tends to constrain migration, which suggests that it is the specific impacts experienced by a household, rather than climatic variability per se, that determines the migration decision. Households with higher economic, social and cultural status show a stronger propensity to engage in, or plan for, migration, especially that which requires substantial resources (e.g., long-distance and entire household migration), whereas those with higher reputational and political status are more likely to stay. Although multiple inequalities shaped by class are found to be significant in influencing climatic variability impacts and migration, results of policy analysis suggest that current migration and adaptation policies largely concentrate on economic inequality and do not provide sufficient institutional and financial support to address inequality. The study recommends that local government identify the characteristics and needs of the groups that are particularly vulnerable to climate change. The needs of these groups should be integrated into cohesive development programs which promote both local development and human migration. Specific arrangements of instruments, institutions and finance should be made in these programs to ensure that multi-faceted inequality is addressed, allowing vulnerable groups in the community to access more diverse and proactive adaptive strategies.
Advisor: Rudd, Dianne M.
Hugo, Graeme John
Tan, Yan
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Social Sciences, 2015.
Keywords: climatic variability
Minqin county
western China
Provenance: This electronic version is made publicly available by the University of Adelaide in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. This thesis may incorporate third party material which has been used by the author pursuant to Fair Dealing exceptions. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material you wish to be removed from this electronic version, please complete the take down form located at:
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