From risk reduction to a landscape of (un)desired outcomes: Climate migrants’ perceptions of migration success and failure

Amit Tubi, Yael Israeli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Much of the climate migration research examines whether migration is a successful/adaptive response that reduces climate risk or a failed/maladaptive response that increases risk. However, it has largely failed to examine migration outcomes through migrants’ own eyes, thereby yielding insights that are potentially disconnected from their realities and aspirations. To address this gap, we examine how migrants perceive “success” and “failure” concerning drought-influenced migration. Focusing on migration from agro-pastoral northern Kenya to the City of Nairobi, we conduct semi-structured interviews with 36 migrants who fulfill two criteria: (1) their migration was induced mainly by drought impacts, and (2) they had spent at least one year in Nairobi. We then apply a thematic analysis to identify the main success and failure perceptions. We find that migrants’ success perceptions focus on the support of their households in their places of origin. A similar failure theme pertains to migrants’ inability to achieve this objective. However, another predominant theme emphasizes failure as cultural assimilation in Nairobi, often linked with substance abuse and perceived as a trigger for cascading failures, including migrants’ inability to achieve their adaptation-related objectives. We also show how migrants’ perceptions reveal their preferences for specific adaptations, including seemingly maladaptive ones, and the role of social factors in determining migration’s overall success and/or failure. Accordingly, we argue that research must shift from framing migration narrowly as a climate risk reduction strategy, to conceptualizing it as a process of navigating a landscape of desired and undesired outcomes.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number9
JournalPopulation and Environment
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • Adaptation
  • Climate change
  • Drought
  • Migration
  • Perceptions
  • Success

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)


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