The long-term effects of early-life exposure to weather shocks: Evidence from Tanzania

We examine whether early-life exposure to rainfall shocks has a long-term impact on health, education, and the socioeconomic statuses of individuals in rural Tanzania, where livelihoods heavily depend on rain-fed agriculture. We use a unique panel of data from a Kagera Health and Development Survey (KHDS) in which children were followed from childhood (1991) to adulthood (2010) together with historical rainfall data. We apply a sibling fixed-effect estimator to overcome potential endogeneity issues. We find that rainfall in birth year affects the education and socioeconomic statuses of children in adulthood. A 15 percent increase in rainfall in one’s birth year and birth village (relative to average village rainfall) leads children to have more years of schooling and live in a household in 2010 that scores 0.19 higher on an asset index. We then explore the relationship between early-life rainfall and childhood nutritional status to identify early-life rainfall’s initial effect. We find that higher birth-year rainfall leads to significant decreases in height and weight deficits in children. A 15 percent increase in rainfall in one’s birth year and birth village (relative to average village rainfall) improves height-for-age z score by 0.20 and weight-for-age z score by 0.26. When taken together, our results point to the importance of early childhood nutrition intervention. Sensitivity checks show that the results are robust to sample selection.

Working paper 877
1 April 2022

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