Dust and Death: Evidence from the West African Harmattan
Using two decades of data from twelve low-income countries in West Africa, we show that dust carried by harmattan trade winds increases infant and child mortality. Health investments respond to dust exposure, consistent with compensating behaviors. Despite these efforts, surviving children still exhibit negative health impacts. Our data allow us to investigate differential impacts over time and across countries. We find declining impacts over time, suggesting adaptation. Using national-level measures of macroeconomic conditions and health resources, we find suggestive evidence that both economic development and public health improvements have contributed to this adaptation, with health improvements playing a larger role.
This paper has benefitted from fruitful discussions with Daniel Benjamin, Paul Fisher, Matthew Turner, and from comments at seminars at the Annual Bank Conference on Africa, Bocconi University, the University of California, San Diego, the University of Cambridge, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the environment and energy economics spring meeting, the University of Essex, Hebrew University, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the University of Luxembourg, Maastricht University, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, the Navarra Centre for International Development, the University of Oxford, the University of Southern Denmark, the University of Sussex, and the University of York. Bharadwaj thanks PERC for providing space and intellectual discussions while writing. Adhvaryu acknowledges funding from the NIH/NICHD (5K01HD071949). The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.