Effects of Climate Shocks on the Cognitive Development of Children in rural Ethiopia

Tilahun Belay Asmare
Economics, Mekelle university
June, 2013


Climate-related shocks threaten the livelihoods of households in developing countries mainly due to low coping and resilience capacities. When shocks occur, the welfare of children in these countries is likely to be the most affected, often leading to poor child development outcomes. Despite the potential significance of the long-term consequences of such poor child outcomes, evidence focusing on the relationship between the two is scarce particularly in poor countries like Ethiopia. This paper aims to contribute to this gap by investigating the effect of climate shocks on the cognitive development of children in rural Ethiopia using longitudinal data on two-cohorts of the Ethiopian Young Lives dataset. We also exploit the longitudinal nature of the dataset to explore effects of safety net programs, such as the PSNP, put in place to mitigate the magnitude of such shocks on child outcomes. The cognitive test score of children is conceptualized using simple human capital development theory and the empirical analysis is based on fixed effect panel data analysis. The paper finds that climate shocks contribute to significant reductions of child cognitive developments as measured by standard PPVT test scores. It also find that the shock-reversing safety net programs in place mainly the PSNP help minimize the negative impacts of drought by improving children nutritional status and reducing psychosocial stress due to the shock. The findings suggest that national and regional governments may benefit from strengthening existing disaster risk reduction strategies both at household - and school-levels. Programs can be more effective and long-term focused by making their targeting sensitive to child outcomes both at household- and community-levels.