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Estimating the Impact of Weather on Agriculture


  • Jeffrey D. Michler
  • Anna Josephson
  • Talip Kilic
  • Siobhan Murray


This paper quantifies the significance and magnitude of the effect of measurement error in remote sensing weather data in the analysis of smallholder agricultural productivity. The analysis leverages 17 rounds of nationally-representative, panel household survey data from six countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. These data are spatially-linked with a range of geospatial weather data sources and related metrics. We provide systematic evidence on measurement error introduced by 1) different methods used to obfuscate the exact GPS coordinates of households, 2) different metrics used to quantify precipitation and temperature, and 3) different remote sensing measurement technologies. First, we find no discernible effect of measurement error introduced by different obfuscation methods. Second, we find that simple weather metrics, such as total seasonal rainfall and mean daily temperature, outperform more complex metrics, such as deviations in rainfall from the long-run average or growing degree days, in a broad range of settings. Finally, we find substantial amounts of measurement error based on remote sensing product. In extreme cases, data drawn from different remote sensing products result in opposite signs for coefficients on weather metrics, meaning that precipitation or temperature draw from one product purportedly increases crop output while the same metrics drawn from a different product purportedly reduces crop output. We conclude with a set of six best practices for researchers looking to combine remote sensing weather data with socioeconomic survey data.

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  • Jeffrey D. Michler & Anna Josephson & Talip Kilic & Siobhan Murray, 2020. "Estimating the Impact of Weather on Agriculture," Papers 2012.11768,, revised Oct 2021.
  • Handle: RePEc:arx:papers:2012.11768

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sala-i-Martin, Xavier, 1997. "I Just Ran Two Million Regressions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(2), pages 178-183, May.
    2. David B Lobell & George Azzari & Marshall Burke & Sydney Gourlay & Zhenong Jin & Talip Kilic & Siobhan Murray, 2020. "Eyes in the Sky, Boots on the Ground: Assessing Satellite‐ and Ground‐Based Approaches to Crop Yield Measurement and Analysis," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 102(1), pages 202-219, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Michler, Jeffrey D. & Josephson, Anna & Kilic, Talip & Murray, Siobhan, 2022. "Privacy protection, measurement error, and the integration of remote sensing and socioeconomic survey data," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 158(C).
    2. Sarah A. Janzen & Jeffrey D. Michler, 2021. "Ulysses' pact or Ulysses' raft: Using pre‐analysis plans in experimental and nonexperimental research," Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 43(4), pages 1286-1304, December.

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