Understanding the role of environmental and social conditions on the migration of Marshallese Islanders


The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) is a small island nation that is being increasingly affected by sea level rise, drought, and saltwater inundation. Increasing numbers of Marshallese are migrating to larger or more populated islands or to the United States. It is important to understand how stressors may be driving migration in order to better support migrant populations. Based on our surveys, residents of both the RMI and the US acknowledge that environmental change is affecting the Marshalls. Health care, jobs, and education were primary drivers of migration, but RMI respondents living subsistence lifestyles were more likely to identify climate-related environmental degradation as a reason for their move. US respondents were more likely to agree that environmental factors are also involved, both directly through sea level rise and indirectly through effects on food systems and economies. By understanding the complex factors driving migration within the RMI and to the US, we can better anticipate future migration levels and patterns that could help inform policies and services that support positive outcomes of migration, both for the individuals who are moving and their source and destination communities.

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This research feature was produced by the Pacific Islands Climate Science Center.

Featured photo:  High tides on October 9, 2014 cause flooding in Majuro.  Photo by Kathy Kijiner.