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Optimal Expectations and the Welfare Cost of Climate Variability

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  • Alem, Yonas
  • Colmer, Jonathan

Abstract

Uncertainty about the future is an important determinant of well-being, especially in developing countries where financial markets and other market failures result in ineffective insurance mechanisms. However, separating the effects of future uncertainty from realised events, and then measuring the impact of uncertainty on utility, presents a number of empirical challenges. This paper aims to address these issues and provides supporting evidence to show that increased climate variability (a proxy for future income uncertainty) reduces farmers' subjective well-being, consistent with the theory of optimal expectations (Brunnermeier & Parker, 2005 AER), using panel data from rural Ethiopia and a new data set containing daily atmospheric parameters. The magnitude of our result indicates that a one standard deviation (7%) increase in climate variability has an equivalent effect on life satisfaction to a two standard deviation (1-2%) decrease in consumption. This effect is one of the largest determinants of life satisfaction in rural Ethiopia.

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Paper provided by Resources For the Future in its series Discussion Papers with number dp-14-03-efd.

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Date of creation: 05 Mar 2014
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Handle: RePEc:rff:dpaper:dp-14-03-efd

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Cited by:
  1. Alem, Yonas, 2014. "Life-Satisfaction in Urban Ethiopia: The Role of Relative Poverty and Unobserved Heterogeneity," Discussion Papers dp-14-04-efd, Resources For the Future.
  2. Jonathan Colmer, 2013. "Climate Variability, Child Labour and Schooling: Evidence on the Intensive and Extensive Margin," Working Papers 2013.81, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  3. Alem, Yonas, 2013. "Relative Standing and Life-Satisfaction: Does Unobserved Heterogeneity Matter?," Working Papers in Economics 579, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
  4. Jonathan Colmer, 2013. "Climate Variability, Child Labour and Schooling: Evidence on the Intensive and Extensive Margin," Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment Working Papers 132, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.

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