Media Briefings


  • Published Date: February 2018

New research reveals the negative impact of climate change on rural labour markets, particularly for poor wage-labourer households. The study by Katrina Jessoe, Dale Manning and Edward Taylor, published in the February 2018 issue of the Economic Journal, finds that the rising number of very hot days in rural Mexico each year is leading to substantial falls in local employment. In response to extreme heat, local workers are migrating, either to urban areas of the country or to the United States.

Climate change will have strong impacts in rural regions of the world, especially in less developed countries. In these countries, farmers face limited access to credit, fertiliser, other agricultural inputs or government support – and a larger proportion of the population is employed in agriculture.

In Mexico, the focus of this study, agriculture is one of the largest sectors of employment, employing more than 13% of the country’s population in 2016. For these reasons, farmers may be ill-equipped to cope with temperature changes and the impacts may reach a large population.

One sector that might be quite responsive to extreme heat in Mexico is rural labour. In Mexico, small traditional or subsistence farmers own or manage more than 77% of rural property. These farmers often do not have access to irrigation, credit or improved seeds. Perhaps because of this, agriculture is quite labour-intensive. Labour may be one of the only margins through which farmers can respond to extreme heat.

This research, which uses nearly 30 years of nationally representative household survey data, is the first to evaluate the effect of extreme heat on the probability of local work in rural Mexico. The authors measure extreme heat in terms of ‘harmful degree days’ (HDDs), where each increase in average temperature by 1º C above 32º on a given day translates into a 1º increase in HDDs.

The study finds that extreme heat reduces the probability of local work in rural Mexico, with a 1 HDD increase reducing the probability of local employment by 0.05 percentage points. These impacts are particularly acute for wage workers.

The negative impacts are not limited to agricultural employment: they reverberate into non-agricultural sectors of the rural economy such as retail, services and construction. The probability of employment in those sectors declines by 0.04 percentage points per 1-unit increase in HDDs.

Rural labour responds to negative weather shocks through migration. The researchers find that in response to extreme heat, local workers migrate, either to urban areas of Mexico or to the United States.

They use these econometric findings to project changes in rural employment and migration from climate change. All climate models predict that the number of extreme heat days will increase over a large part of Mexico.

Under a moderate emissions scenario, there is a decrease in local employment of up to 1.4% and an increase in migration to other parts of Mexico and to the United States of up to 1.4% and 0.25%, respectively. These projections translate into 236,094 fewer individuals employed locally, 232,792 migrating to urban areas of Mexico and 41,275 migrating to the United States.


Notes for editors: ‘Climate Change and Labour Allocation in Rural Mexico: Evidence from Annual Fluctuations in Weather’ by Katrina Jessoe, Dale T. Manning and J. Edward Taylor is published in the February 2018 issue of the Economic Journal.

Katrina Jessoe and Edward Taylor are at University of California, Davis. Dale Manning is at Colorado State University.

For further information: contact Romesh Vaitilingam on +44-7768-661095 (email:; Twitter: @econromesh); Katrina Jessoe via email:; Dale Manning via email:; or Edward Taylor via email: