DP9801 Mitigating long-run health effects of drought: Evidence from South Africa

Author(s): Taryn Dinkelman
Publication Date: February 2014
Keyword(s): disability and early life health, drought, local shocks, migration, South Africa
JEL(s): I15, J61, N37, O15
Programme Areas: Development Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=9801

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