Economic inequality expanded after an extreme climate event: a long-term analysis of herders’ household data in Mongolia

Kaoru Kakinuma, Kohei Tamura, Hiroki Takikawa, Yuichiro Fujioka, Kazuhiro Kezuka, Hiroshi Nakamura

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1 Citation (Scopus)


The importance of ending poverty and reducing economic inequality has been explicitly recognized globally. Climate extremes are a critical global risk and can lead to economic damages, but empirical evidence of their effects on economic inequality is limited. Here, we focus on Mongolian pastoralism, which has a coupled socio-ecological system, to examine the trend of economic inequality among herders following a climate extreme event. Mongolia experienced a winter disaster in 2009 that caused a mortality of about 20% of the total number of livestock across the country. We used a long-term livestock panel dataset at the household level (n = 787) during 2004–2013 to examine changes in the economic distribution after the disaster. Economic inequality increased after the disaster (Gini coefficient increased from 0.46 to 0.61), and the increased level of inequality remained 4 years after the disaster. A decomposition of the inequality analysis showed that within-group inequality largely contributed to the greater total inequality, and household groups with a small number of livestock had the largest increase in inequality. Moreover, household groups that did not recover their livestock number had a higher loss rate of livestock during the disaster than household groups that did recover. Although the number of total livestock in the study area did recover after 4 years, we empirically showed that inequality among herders increased after the disaster. This result suggests that economic distributions are critical when examining the socio-economic impacts of climate extremes. We also suggest that preparing for disasters during normal years to alleviate loss of livestock during a disaster, especially for households with a small number of livestock, is a critical way to reduce poverty in the face of more frequent climate extremes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-283
Number of pages9
JournalSustainability Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Health(social science)
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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