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Water Scarcity and Birth Outcomes in the Brazilian Semiarid


  • Rudi Rocha


  • Rodrigo R. Soares

    () (Department of Economics PUC-Rio)


This paper analyzes the impact of rainfall fluctuations during the gestational period on health at birth. We concentrate on the semiarid region of Northeastern Brazil to highlight the role of water scarcity as a determinant of early life health. We find that negative rainfall shocks are robustly correlated with higher infant mortality, lower birth weight, and shorter gestation periods. Mortality effects are concentrated on intestinal infections and malnutrition, and are greatly minimized when the local public health infrastructure is sufficiently developed (municipality coverage of piped water and sanitation). We also …nd that e¤ects are stronger during the fetal period (2nd trimester of gestation), for children born during the dry season, and for mortality in the first 6 months of life. The results seem to be driven by water scarcity per se, and not by reduced agricultural production. Our estimates suggest that expansions in public health infrastructure would be a cost-effective way of reducing the response of infant mortality to rainfall shocks in the Brazilian semiarid

Suggested Citation

  • Rudi Rocha & Rodrigo R. Soares, 2012. "Water Scarcity and Birth Outcomes in the Brazilian Semiarid," Textos para discussão 601, Department of Economics PUC-Rio (Brazil).
  • Handle: RePEc:rio:texdis:601

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sharon Maccini & Dean Yang, 2009. "Under the Weather: Health, Schooling, and Economic Consequences of Early-Life Rainfall," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(3), pages 1006-1026, June.
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    6. Olivier Deschenes & Michael Greenstone & Jonathan Guryan, 2009. "Climate Change and Birth Weight," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 211-217, May.
    7. Janet Currie, 2009. "Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Socioeconomic Status, Poor Health in Childhood, and Human Capital Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(1), pages 87-122, March.
    8. Skoufias, Emmanuel & Vinha, Katja & Conroy, Hector V., 2011. "The impacts of climate variability on welfare in rural Mexico," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5555, The World Bank.
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    12. Kudamatsu, Masayuki & Persson, Torsten & Strömberg, David, 2012. "Weather and Infant Mortality in Africa," CEPR Discussion Papers 9222, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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    Cited by:

    1. Norbert Schady, 2015. "Does Access to Better Water and Sanitation Infrastructure Improve Child Outcomes? Evidence from Latin America and the Caribbean," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 92337, Inter-American Development Bank.
    2. Foureaux Koppensteiner, Martin & Manacorda, Marco, 2016. "Violence and birth outcomes: Evidence from homicides in Brazil," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 119(C), pages 16-33.
    3. Molina, Oswaldo & Saldarriaga, Victor, 2017. "The perils of climate change: In utero exposure to temperature variability and birth outcomes in the Andean region," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 24(C), pages 111-124.
    4. Douglas Almond & Janet Currie & Valentina Duque, 2017. "Childhood Circumstances and Adult Outcomes: Act II," NBER Working Papers 23017, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Santosh Kumar & Ramona Molitor & Sebastian Vollmer, 2014. "Children of Drought: Rainfall Shocks and Early Child Health in Rural India," Working Papers 1407, Sam Houston State University, Department of Economics and International Business.
    6. Lovo, Stefania & Veronesi, Marcella, 2014. "Crop Diversification and Child Health: Empirical Evidence From Tanzania," 2014 International Congress, August 26-29, 2014, Ljubljana, Slovenia 182735, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
    7. Marco Manacorda & Martin Foureaux Koppensteiner, 2013. "The Effect of Violence on Birth Outcomes: Evidence from Homicides in Rural Brazil," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 4613, Inter-American Development Bank.
    8. Groppo, Valeria & Kraehnert, Kati, 2016. "Extreme Weather Events and Child Height: Evidence from Mongolia," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 86(C), pages 59-78.
    9. Norbert Schady, 2015. "Does Access to Better Water and Sanitation Infrastructure Improve Child Outcomes? Evidence from Latin America and the Caribbean," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 7369, Inter-American Development Bank.
    10. Olukorede Abiona & Martin Foureaux Koppensteiner, 2016. "The Impact of Household Shocks on Domestic Violence: Evidence from Tanzania," Discussion Papers in Economics 16/14, Department of Economics, University of Leicester.
    11. Bermudez, Bladimir Carrillo & Santos Branco, Danyelle Karine & Trujillo, Juan Carlos & de Lima, Joao Eustaquio, 2015. "Deforestation and Infant Health: Evidence from an Environmental Conservation Policy in Brazil," 2015 Conference, August 9-14, 2015, Milan, Italy 229064, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    12. Andalón, Mabel & Azevedo, João Pedro & Rodríguez-Castelán, Carlos & Sanfelice, Viviane & Valderrama-González, Daniel, 2016. "Weather Shocks and Health at Birth in Colombia," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 82(C), pages 69-82.
    13. repec:eee:wdevel:v:99:y:2017:i:c:p:350-376 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Dolores de la Mata & Mauricio G. Valencia-Amaya, 2014. "The Health Impacts of Severe Climate Shocks in Colombia," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 85896, Inter-American Development Bank.
    15. Krueger, Erik S. & Yimam, Yohannes Tadesse & Ochsner, Tyson E., 2017. "Human factors were dominant drivers of record low streamflow to a surface water irrigation district in the US southern Great Plains," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 185(C), pages 93-104.
    16. Bladimir Carrillo Bermudez & João Eustáquio De Lima & Juan C. Trujillo, 2016. "Weather Fluctuations, Early-Life Conditions, And Parental Investments: Evidence From Colombia," Anais do XLIII Encontro Nacional de Economia [Proceedings of the 43rd Brazilian Economics Meeting] 140, ANPEC - Associação Nacional dos Centros de Pósgraduação em Economia [Brazilian Association of Graduate Programs in Economics].
    17. Dolores de la Mata & Mauricio G. Valencia-Amaya, 2014. "The Health Impacts of Severe Climate Shocks in Colombia," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 6570, Inter-American Development Bank.
    18. Lichand, Guilherme & Mani, Anandi, 2016. "Cognitive Droughts," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 298, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I15 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Economic Development
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • H51 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Health
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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