Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Fernando Riosmena

Second Advisor

Joe Bryan

Third Advisor

Elisabeth Root


In recent years, the relationship between environmental change and migration has become a timely and popular topic of academic inquiry. However, empirical studies concerned with environment-migration dynamics have consistently demonstrated empirical limitations stemming from coarse scales of analysis, as well as theoretical ones stemming from reductive framings of migration as problematic or undesirable. This study contributes to ongoing research specifically relating drought to patterns of migration from rural Mexico by addressing these issues of scale and conceptual framing. First, it refines the scale at which drought estimates are extrapolated and presumed to be representative of local experience. Second, it critically engages with conventional framings of vulnerability and adaptive capacity, acknowledging the critical social and historical role migration has played throughout Mexican history. Using discrete time hazard analysis, this study identifies a complex relationship between drought and migration. Importantly, it finds that while severe drought seems to encourage migration, increasing intensity and frequency are associated with a decreased likelihood of migration at the household level. These results suggest that drought can actually act to constrain livelihood diversification opportunities, rather than automatically impel population movement, and contribute a significantly greater level of nuance to studies focused on the environmental dynamics of migration.