Long Run Health Repercussions of Drought Shocks: Evidence from South African Homelands
Drought is Africa’s most prevalent natural disaster and is becoming an increasingly common source of income shocks around the world. This paper presents new evidence from Africa that droughts are an important component of long run variation in health human capital. I use Census data to estimate the effects of early childhood exposure to drought on later-life disabilities among South Africans confined to homelands during apartheid. By exploiting almost forty years of quasi-random variation in local droughts experienced by different cohorts in different districts, I find that drought exposure in infancy raises later-life disability rates by 3.5 to 5.2%, with effects concentrated in physical and mental disabilities, and largest for males. An exploration of spatial heterogeneity in drought effects suggests that limits to mobility imposed on homelands may have contributed to these negative effects. My findings are relevant for low-income settings where households have limited access to formal and informal coping mechanisms and face high costs of avoiding droughts through migration.
The paper benefited greatly from discussions with Douglas Almond, Patricia Anderson, Eric Edmonds and Erzo Luttmer and seminar participants at Columbia University, the Minneapolis and St. Louis Federal Reserve Banks, Washington University in St. Louis, the April 2012 BREAD pre-conference, the junior faculty lunch seminar at Dartmouth College and the NBER Summer Institute 2013. Support for this research was provided by the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Grant R03HD069060-01). All views expressed are my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or policy of the federal government. An earlier version of this paper was circulated under the title “Mitigating long-run health effects of drought: Evidence from South Africa”, Bread Working Paper No. 407, December 2013. The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Taryn Dinkelman, 2016. "Long run health repercussions of drought shocks: Evidence from South African homelands," The Economic Journal, , pages n/a-n/a. citation courtesy of