Examining the relationship between temperature, rainfall and low birth weight: evidence from 19 African countries

Kathryn Grace, University of Utah
Frank Davenport, University of California, Santa Barbara
Chris Funk, University of California, Santa Barbara

This paper examines the relationship between low birth weight and rainfall and temperature in 21 African countries. We match recorded birth weights from the Demographic and Health Survey from 1986 through 2011 with gridded monthly precipitation and temperature data. Observed weather patterns during various stages of pregnancy are also included to determine the effect of increasing temperature and decreasing rainfall on birth weight outcomes. In our empirical model we allow the effect of weather factors to vary by the dominant food production strategy (livelihood zone) as well as by household wealth, mother’s education and birth season. This allows us to determine if certain populations are more or less vulnerable to unexpected weather changes even after adjusting for known covariates, particularly related to food production and socio-economic status. Finally we measure effect size by observing differences in birth weight outcomes in women who have one low birth weight experience and (at least) one healthy birth weight baby. By conducting a within-mother analysis we can remove some of the variation according to mother and instead isolate the specific environmental factors that are related to birth weight variation. Preliminary results indicate that both rainfall and temperature have a significant (positive for rainfall and negative for temperature) impact on birth weight, even after adjusting for maternal, household and community characteristics.

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Presented in Session 21: Demographic impact of environmental hazards