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Long Run Health Repercussions of Drought Shocks: Evidence from South African Homelands


  • Taryn Dinkelman


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Taryn Dinkelman, 2015. "Long Run Health Repercussions of Drought Shocks: Evidence from South African Homelands," NBER Working Papers 21440, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21440
    Note: CH DEV LS

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    Cited by:

    1. Sylvain Dessy & Francesca Marchetta & Roland Pongou & Luca Tiberti, 2019. "Fertility after The Drought: Theory and Evidence from Madagascar," Cahiers de recherche 1901, Centre de recherche sur les risques, les enjeux économiques, et les politiques publiques.
    2. Islam, Asif & Hyland, Marie, 2019. "The drivers and impacts of water infrastructure reliability – a global analysis of manufacturing firms," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 163(C), pages 143-157.
    3. Gross, Jeremie & Guirkinger, Catherine & Platteau, Jean-Philippe, 2020. "Buy as you need: Nutrition and food storage imperfections," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 144(C).
    4. Deng, Zichen & Lindeboom, Maarten, 2019. "A Bit of Salt, a Trace of Life: Gender Norms and the Impact of a Salt Iodization Program on Human Capital Formation of School Aged Children," IZA Discussion Papers 12629, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    5. Duque, Valentina & Rosales-Rueda, Maria & Sanchez, Fabio, 2019. "How Do Early-Life Shocks Interact with Subsequent Human Capital Investments? Evidence from Administrative Data," Working Papers 2019-17, University of Sydney, School of Economics.
    6. Dessy, Sylvain & Marchetta, Francesca & Pongou, Roland & Tiberti, Luca, 2020. "Climate Shocks and Teenage Fertility," GLO Discussion Paper Series 490, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    7. Hyland, Marie & Russ, Jason, 2019. "Water as destiny – The long-term impacts of drought in sub-Saharan Africa," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 115(C), pages 30-45.
    8. Panza, Laura, 2020. "The impact of ethnic segregation on schooling outcomes in Mandate Palestine," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 146(C).
    9. Ali, Daniel Ayalew & Deininger, Klaus & Monchuk, Daniel, 2020. "Using satellite imagery to assess impacts of soil and water conservation measures: Evidence from Ethiopia’s Tana-Beles watershed," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 169(C).
    10. Bauer, Jan M. & Mburu, Samuel, 2017. "Effects of drought on child health in Marsabit District, Northern Kenya," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 24(C), pages 74-79.
    11. Aimable Nsabimana & Justice Tei Mensah, 2020. "Weather shocks and child nutrition: Evidence from Tanzania," WIDER Working Paper Series wp-2020-57, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    12. Sylvain Dessy & Francesca Marchetta & Roland Pongou & Luca Tiberti, 2019. "Fertility response to climate shocks," Working Papers halshs-02053100, HAL.
    13. Schiman, Jeffrey C. & Kaestner, Robert & Lo Sasso, Anthony T., 2019. "Infant mortality and adult wellbeing: Evidence from wartime Britain," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 12-29.
    14. Díaz, Juan-José & Saldarriaga, Victor, 2020. "A Drop of Love? Rainfall Shocks and Spousal Abuse: Evidence from Rural Peru," MPRA Paper 102108, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I15 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Economic Development
    • N37 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Africa; Oceania
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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