PROJECTClimate Migration and Receiving Community Institutional Capacity in the US Gulf Coast

Who Are Climate Migrants?

Climate migrants are broadly defined as people who forcibly or voluntarily leave their home—temporarily or permanently—because of a weather-related disaster or the chronic effects of climate change. They can move or be displaced within their home country or region, or to another country.

Millions of people are expected to be displaced by climate change in the United States by the end of this century. However, little is known about communities’ capacity to effectively receive and support climate migrants or their ability to do so over time as the effects of climate change advance.

The Urban Institute is addressing this knowledge gap by providing data and evidence about the effects of climate migration in US Gulf Coast communities and their capacity to respond to migrants’ changing needs over time. With support from the National Academy of Sciences Gulf Research Program, Urban studied how the following three Gulf Coast communities were affected by the arrival of migrants displaced by climate change–induced disasters:

  • Houston, Texas, as a receiving community for climate migrants from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005;
  • Orange and Osceola Counties near Orlando, Florida, which were receiving communities for climate migrants from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2016; and
  • Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes in Louisiana, which have experienced ongoing climate migration in recent decades due to displacement from land loss, flooding, storms, and hurricanes in the southern coastal region of the state.

Specifically, Urban investigated the institutional capacity of these communities to respond to and support climate migrants across the following five domains:

  • Housing markets
  • Financial institutions and financial health
  • Employment and economic development
  • Health care systems
  • Social, recreational, and cultural institutions

Based on our research findings, we offer recommendations on how communities across the country can prepare for, receive, and support climate migrants. Our evidence-informed insights can also be used by city, county, and state leaders, nonprofit organizations, and community advocates to help shape and strengthen climate migration policy and planning.




Related Content


This project is part of a body of work at Urban on climate and communities that investigates the social, economic, and equity implications of climate change. Our studies focus on people and communities disproportionately affected by the increasing frequency and severity of weather-related disasters. We also analyze the social and economic outcomes of climate change-related infrastructure, policy, and interventions.

To learn more about Urban’s climate migration research, contact Anne Junod.

To learn more about Urban’s climate and communities work, contact Sara McTarnaghan or Andrew Rumbach.

Research Areas Climate change, disasters, and community resilience
Tags Climate safety net Planning for climate change Climate displacement and migration
Policy Centers Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center