Operationalizing and empirically identifying populations trapped in place by climate and environmental stressors in Mexico

Jack DeWaard, Lori M. Hunter, Mason C. Mathews, Esteban J. Quiñones, Fernando Riosmena, Daniel H. Simon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


A 2011 Foresight report by the UK Government Office for Science introduced and raised questions and concerns about trapped populations. Conceptualized as consisting of actors who are highly vulnerable to climate and environmental stressors given limited resources (economic, social), trapped populations lack the capacity to adapt to these stressors in situ or by choosing to migrate. Informed by insights and omissions from this report and subsequent theoretical and empirical research, we propose a guiding operational definition and corresponding set of five empirical steps to identify and study trapped populations. In an empirical demonstration using data from the Mexican Family Life Survey (MxFLS), we detail these five steps, which permit both retrospective and prospective identification of trapped populations via predicted probabilities derived from statistical models. We find that our approach performs well. For example, using model coefficients estimated from the first wave of the MxFLS and actors’ characteristics from the second wave of the MxFLS to predict the probability of non-migration in the latter wave, we find that our approach overwhelmingly identifies observed non-migrants. We conclude with the observation that our approach, as well as other potential approaches, can and should continue to be refined to ensure theoretical and empirical integration, consistency, and cooperation in studying and understanding trapped populations and human [im]mobility more broadly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number29
JournalRegional Environmental Change
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • Adaptive capacity
  • Climate
  • Environment
  • Migration
  • Migration intentions
  • Non-migration
  • Trapped populations
  • Vulnerability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change


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