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Mitigating Long-run Health Effects of Drought: Evidence from South Africa

  • Taryn Dinkelman

Drought is Africa's primary natural disaster and a pervasive source of income risk for poor households. This paper documents the long-run health effects of early life exposure to drought and investigates an important source of heterogeneity in these effects. Combining birth cohort variation in South African Census data with cross-sectional and temporal drought variation, I estimate long-run health impacts of drought exposure among Africans confined to homelands during apartheid. Drought exposure in early childhood significantly raises later life male disability rates by 4% and reduces cohort size. Among a subset of homelands - the TBVC areas - disability effects are double and negative cohort effects are significantly larger. I show that differences in spatial mobility restrictions that influence the extent of migrant networks across TBVC and non-TBVC areas contribute to this heterogeneity. Placebo checks show no differential disability impacts of drought exposure across TBVC and non-TBVC areas after the repeal of migration restrictions. The results show that although drought has significant long-run effects on health human capital, migrant networks in poor economies provide one channel through which families mitigate these negative impacts of local environmental shock.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19756.

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Date of creation: Dec 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19756
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