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Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Nina Berlin Rubin; Gabrielle Wong-Parodi
Publication Date: 2022

Climate change impacts and rapid development in the wildland-urban interface are increasing population exposure and vulnerability to the harmful effects of wildfire and wildfire smoke. The direct and indirect effects of these hazards may impact future mobility decisions among populations at risk. To better understand how perceptions and personal experience inform wildfire- and smoke-associated migration intentions, we surveyed a representative sample of 1108 California residents following the 2020 wildfire season. We assessed the associations between threat appraisal, coping appraisal, personal experience, migration intentions, the impact of wildfire and smoke on migration intentions and place satisfaction, and the potential likelihood of future migration. Results indicate that roughly a third of our sample intended to move in the next 5 years, nearly a quarter of whom reported that wildfire and smoke impacted their migration decision at least a moderate amount. Prior negative outcomes (e.g., evacuating, losing property) were associated with intentions to migrate. Perceived susceptibility and prior negative outcomes were associated with a greater impact of wildfire and smoke on migration intentions. For those intending to remain in place, prior negative outcomes were associated with a greater impact of wildfire and smoke on place satisfaction, which was in turn associated with a greater reported likelihood of future migration. Our findings suggest that perceptions of and experiences with wildfire and smoke may impact individual mobility decisions. These insights may be leveraged to inform risk communications and outreach campaigns to encourage wildfire and smoke risk mitigation behaviors and to improve climate migration modeling.

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Citation: Berlin Rubin, Nina; Wong-Parodi, Gabrielle. 2022. As California burns: the psychology of wildfire- and wildfire smoke-related migration intentions. Population and Environment 44(1):15-45.

Cataloging Information

  • climate migration
  • migration intentions
  • mitigation
  • personal experience
  • risk perception
  • threat appraisal
  • wildfire
Record Last Modified:
Record Maintained By: FRAMES Staff (
FRAMES Record Number: 66531