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Prenatal health and weather-related shocks under social safety net policy in Kenya

Exposure to weather shocks around the time of birth has been shown to have deleterious effects on later life outcomes. In the short run, such shocks can lead to income loss, especially when households are not insured but rely heavily on rainfed agricultural activities. In the long run, however, they can cause a reduction in adult earnings, human capital development and health outcomes. Despite these findings, there are few studies examining the extent to which receiving a cash transfer can help buffer the effects of weather shocks experienced early in life, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. We close this gap in research and use a randomized control trial dataset from Hunger Safety Net Programme (HSNP) in Northern Kenya and apply regression models to estimate the effect sizes. We find that weather shocks experienced early in life reduce a child’s height for age (HA) and weight for age (WA) Z- scores by 0.78 and 0.09 standard deviation respectively, controlling for other covariates. Moreover, we show that receiving a cash transfer buffers the negative effects of weather shocks. Specifically, receiving a cash transfer reduces exposure to weather shock by about 0.29 standard deviations under HA Z-scores when drought is measured in cumulative terms. However, we do not observe any buffering effect of receiving cash transfer on child health indicators when drought is measured during in-utero period. The paper also tested fragile male hypothesis where adverse weather shocks are expected to affect male children more than they would to females. Our results suggest that adverse weather events are worse for male children, exacerbating the male-female differences in presence of weather shocks.

Working paper 831
1 August 2020
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