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Water as destiny – The long-term impacts of drought in sub-Saharan Africa

Marie Hyland and Jason Russ

World Development, 2019, vol. 115, issue C, 30-45

Abstract: We examine the long-term impacts of drought exposure on women born in 19 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, across four decades. We find that women who were exposed to drought conditions during their early childhood are significantly less wealthy as adults. These effects are confined to women born and raised in rural households, indicating that the impacts of rainfall are felt via changes in agricultural output. In addition to lower levels of wealth, women who experience droughts in infancy also receive fewer years of formal education and, in the case of extreme drought conditions, have reduced adult heights. Our results also suggest that drought exposure in infancy can have long-term, negative impacts on women’s empowerment. Finally, we also show that these impacts may be transmitted to the women’s offspring, with children of affected women more likely to be born at a low birth weight (weighing <2.5 kg). To our knowledge, this represents the largest study to date both geographically and over time showing a strong relationship between early life rainfall conditions and adult outcomes, and the first to show that the impacts could span generations.

Keywords: Drought; Fetal origins hypothesis; Climate change; Human capital; Intergenerational effects (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: O13 O15 Q15 Q25 Q5 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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